I have finally started on fencing the second pasture. Really, I started a few months ago, with the planning, but that takes a lot of time, so only just this last week was I able to start putting in posts. I have a master plan of the fencing layout of the whole property, which I have drawn up in Visio. It shows the high-level workflow of gates, tractor drive areas, ditches, culverts and bridges. It looks like this:


But when I’m ready to fence a particular rectangle, I need  second drawing to help me figure out the materials list. So for that I draw a diagram on graph paper, in pencil, so I can make corrections as I go. Here is the plan for this pasture, which is about 3.5 acres.


On this drawing, I think about which way each gate will hinge, and how livestock will flow through that gate in either direction, without getting bunched up into a corner. I also think about how the tractor will pass in both directions, with an implement behind it- it’s hard to turn tight corners, so if there are two gates close together, the turning radius needs to be gradual. In some cases, I actually went out and marked the openings with temporary T-posts, and drove the tractor through them to verify that it would be comfortable.

The drainage ditches require a lot of thought too. Where the Flood Control District will be driving a very large excavator to clean out the drainage ditches, they ask for a 14′ gate opening. And of course, they need room to maneuver through the gates in both directions. But in other places, I prefer a smaller gate, as 14 footers are cumbersome to operate. I also prefer a lot of “man gates” (4′ openings) for easy access when I’m on foot.

And, there is the tiny, barely walk-able space between the ditches and the fencing: I plan to actually trap animals in there from time to time to graze down the strip. My goal is to eventually have every square inch of this place graze-able, so we’ll have very little mowing to do. On the other hand, when I’m moving animals from field to field, I’d like the gates to open in such a way as to block animals from trying to run down that strip when I don’t want them to (it’s hard to get them out of there, I’ve learned…).

Once I know where the gate openings go, that determines where I need big 6×6″ posts, to support heavy gates. I’ll also use that big of a post anywhere where there is a very long run of fencing- say, maybe longer than 200′, because they resist the tension better.

But, 6×6 posts are expensive, and very hard to handle, so I’ll only use them where I really need them. In other places, I’ll use 4×6″ posts, and then 4×4″ posts for the line posts, every 100′. In between, I use steel T-posts, every 10 feet.

For this field, I need 69 wood posts, about 160 T-posts, and over 1800 linear feet of wire. That also means 138 bags of concrete- oof! I will be putting in eight gates in this field, and it will include a driving lane. The lane is useful for driving from field to field without worrying about letting animals out. And, it can also serve as a smaller paddock for separating animals.

I keep this hand-drawing in a plastic sleeve, as I’ll be handling it a lot as I plan each day’s work. On the back of the sheet, I have a reminder list of things I need to bring down to the field with me, in the tractor, for each step in the process- setting the posts, making the H-braces, and then finally stretching the wire. It’s really a pain if I drive all the way down there, and realize I’ve forgotten the fencing pliers!