Everything Has A Dark Side

The cedar fence


For a couple of years now I’ve been singing the praises of  what we called hog panels and cattle panels— heavy wire (3/16th inch) fencing panels that come in 16 ft. lengths, some 48 inches high, some 56 inches high.  Most of you know about them, I’m sure.  As fencing, these panels will last about forever, and so, though sort of expensive (about $20 each now), I wouldn’t hesitate to use them for field fence instead of woven wire. You don’t need special equipment for stretching like you do with woven wire, and you don’t have to erect it in perfectly straight lines to do the stretching. Anytime you want through anywhere along the fence line, you can take down a panel and go. Nor do you need well-braced corner posts sunk half way to China.

These panels make great fences where trees are involved. If a tree or limb falls on the fence, you have only to contend with one 16 foot length and you can bend it back straight if the tree has smashed it. With woven wire you are looking at major repair and re-stretching. In woodland, or along the edge of woodland, you can just go from tree to tree with the panels, using the tree trunks for fence posts. I have found the panels perfect for replacing the crumbling woven wire fence that runs under my hedgerows of cedar trees. I need only clip away a few low branches and slide the panels, one at a time, in place against the tree trunks. The amazing thing is, as I wrote earlier, now that the trees have grown thickly up and high over the fence, with the new panels in place, the deer won’t jump over.

Instead of having to replace the whole fence at one time, I can stick a panel in here or there when and where the old woven wire fence has rusted through. So far, I have had to install only three or four panels a year— easy on the pocketbook, not to mention the back.

The panels have all kinds of uses as temporary enclosures. You can wire them together at the ends to form a three-sided or four-sided sheep or calf pen, or an enclosure around trees, or even a two-sided, V-shaped enclosure up against a barn wall, or to make a temporary cattle chute. You can now buy little wire hinge thingies to fasten the panels together. A triangular shape or square shape will actually stand alone without posts. You can install them two high around garden plots that you want to keep the deer out of.  You can make grow tunnels with them.

I also use the panels bent in a circle to form up my little haystacks.  I don’t have the skill to shape up the sides nice and straight on a free standing stack. And that’s how I learned about the dark side of this fencing.

I went out to check the sheep a few mornings ago—- wanted to know how much of the stack was still left. I had installed a wooden rick around it for the sheep to eat through so they wouldn’t waste much hay. The rick fit only around about three fourths of the stack because I was too lazy to make it bigger. On the other fourth, I left the wire panel.

Sure enough, one of the ewes thrust her head through the panel (the mesh is about six inches square) and was stuck there. She could have pulled herself back out, but if you know sheep, they rarely think of that but bullheadedly keep pushing forward. The harder I tried to push her head back out of the panel, the more solidly she planted her feet and pushed forward. In younger years I would have freed her with sheer muscle power, but now I had to buy a bolt cutter to nip out a horizontal section of the panel so the stupid thing could extricate herself. I found a cheap one in the hardware store— $18 which will cut a 5/16 bolt of soft steel, so plenty good enough for wire panels.

My brother-in-law, Brad  (my hero shepherd) tells me of another solution. He says that a sheep hates the smell of its manure so much that if you pick up a fresh handful of the stuff and press it against her nose, she will back out of anything.

Why does my life these days keeping coming back to defecation?


I suspect any particular size or kind of livestock has particular fences and dimensions of fences they can get caught in. All the adults of standard size breeds of laying ducks, for example, can get their heads caught in 2″x4″ field fence as well as 2″ chicken fence. 1″ chicken fence is OK for the adults but not ducklings. So for my duck flock, it’s chicken fencing and field fencing that have a dark side.

I’m also a big fan of panels. My laying ducks can get through the standard cattle panels, but the combo cattle-poultry panels work well (except for the ducklings). The ducks can reach through the panels about a foot.

One of my favorite uses for the panels is as support for rows of tomato plants. I just put the panels a few inches behind the row, and weave the vines through here and there as they grow.

We have had goats and sheep on a very small scale here for 10 years. Young goats are very good at trimming grass/weeds at the base of woven wire by sticking their heads through the fence. At a certain age thier horns stop them from getting thier heads back in, resulting in the same problem you had.
Realizing that wider horns didn’t fit through the fence in the first place, I tried tying a short wooden 1X2 to the young goat’s horns. This would work for a few days at a time until the smooth wood eventually slid sideways off her head. Then one of my very interesting and very helpful neighbors (we are 24 acres surrounded by 30 allotment homes) offered his more creative solution. So we zip tied and old pair of deer antlers to her horns! Not only did it work great to solve that problem, but she also learned that she could use them to defend herself against larger goats. I’m not too sure what the rest of the neighbors thought of my mutant. It lasted till fall when her horns were big enough by themselves, or at least she believed them to be.

well.. if the poop fits… ha! great story. my pregnant goat got her head stuck in her made-from-a-panel feeder last year. silly thing. we got her loose (the top fell down on her and trapped her). but hands down these panels are one of the best farm tools out there. besides zip ties, of course.

Betty – save yourself a lot of time and frustration and go directly to electric for your goats.

Don’t forget the all purpose pig mover, one horseshoe shaped panel wired to a smaller section does the trick.

I too have been investigating fencing options to keep in goats–thanks for the tips on the stock panels!

This is good to know about; I need to fence my front yard cheaply so I’ll look into them. Thanks Gene!

We’ve been using these panels around here for a few years and found out that our friends at TSC will cut the 16 feet long panels in half at no charge and it makes them a lot easier to load on our pickup and move around in tight quarters. They would have saved me a lot of exercise chasing escapees over the years, too. My pony and our llama had no respect for barbed wire whatsoever.

By the way, if you make “hinged” panels as I described above, be sure the vertical wires of both halves are on the inside of the hinge, and they will fold completely flat for nice stacking.

I’ll second your love of fence panels.

The 16′ length can be a challenge, though. They’re not heavy, but carrying a 16′ hunk of anything always seems to cause trouble.

I use a hack saw and vice-grips to cut them in half right next to one of the verticals, then, using the vice-grips, I wrap each protruding horizontal wire around the vertical one (one down, one up, one down, one up…) to make a a “hinged” panel.

Now, with nothing longer than 8′, I can carry them through gates without getting caught-up, step them over electric fence without getting zapped, or put a stack of them on the front-loader if there’s many to move or if I need them further than I care to carry. And the hinged joint makes it trivial to quickly set up self-standing fencing or kid pens.

For joining the panels, I found a box of key-fob fake carabiners on close-out that go a good job, one at the bottom and another at the top. These are MUCH quicker and easier to undo than baling wire. And when used with a hinged panel, it’s a ready-made gate.

I guess goats are smarter than sheep — de-horned goats seem to know how to get their head out of tight spots, and fence panels make great hay-feeders for them. I put two of my hinged panels around a round bale and throw a tarp over the top for a winter-long feeder.

We love the combo hog/cattle panels here too 🙂
We use cable clamps to fasten them together when we’re serious and mean business and we use good old baling twine for casual use.

Instead of permanent structures or pens in our pole barn, we configure and re-configure the barn every couple of years or so to meet our ever changing needs with “T” posts panels.
Because the panels are removable it is very easy to clean the barn every couple of years with a skid loader. There’s nothing to hit with the bucket on the loader except for the walls (which I’ve done) 🙂

We’ve used the panels for fencing, lambing jugs,a collapsible stock rack for the pick up truck,in the garden and even to make a movable “duck tractor” for the apple orchard.

Because shit happens, Gene:-) Maybe you’re more tuned in to the topic as a result of your research for Holy Shit; I know when I’m working on a topic it seems as though whatever it is pops up no matter where I look. But seriously, that’s a useful hint; we are new to sheep and have three Katahdin ewes, one of which should be lambing within a week or two, so all helpful suggestions are appreciated. And I am in complete agreement with you about panel fences. One of the best features is that you aren’t at risk of getting backlashed by barbed wire when it either breaks or something slips. And you can easily climb a panel fence (if you use the wires right next to a fence post) when the pigs have shoved their feed trough out into the middle of the pen again–which mine do at least every other day. We also have a lot of field fence that we’ve torn out as part of the general renovation going on around here; it’s not useful for fencing anymore but we’re recycling it. We make a welded A-frame with old metal fence posts and fasten the field fencing to it–makes a terrific 6 foot trellis that is so sturdy it never blows down and can be used for even very heavy vines. Saves me a lot of time in the garden every year, too. I suppose fence panels would also work for that but I have way too many other uses for it!

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