Permanent fencing. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Lightweight, portable electric fencing for rotational grazing. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Building fences for a managed grazing system. Photo courtesy Three Rivers (MN) Resource Conservation & Development.
Fences, for conservation purposes, are most often used for pasture management and to exclude livestock from cropland as well as environmentally sensitive areas such as streambanks, wetlands and woods, including restored wildlife habitat and recently established conservation practices such as buffer strips. Conservation programs also fund fencing for safety around manure storage facilities.
Fencing for pasture management is used around pasture perimeters and along livestock travel lanes, including stream crossings. Rotational grazing systems also typically include lightweight, movable fence to subdivide pastures into paddocks and rotate livestock from one paddock (at the appropriate time) to prevent overgrazing and optimize grass growth.
Of course, fences have many other practical applications on the farm. Fences along roads, trails, fields and facilities are used to (among other purposes) delineate property lines, protect livestock from predators and control the spread of disease.
Fencing is an option for landowners who want to exclude hunters or other potential trespassers--especially in brushland or woods. Under Minnesota's trespass law, privately owned brushland or woods (including a great deal of restored habitat in the Conservation Reserve Program or permanent conservation easements) must be posted with "no trespassing" signs in order to legally exclude trespassers. Fencing can aid compliance with the required height and spacing of these signs.
The standard fence is constructed of either barbed or smooth wire suspended by posts with corner and other support structures. Other common types of fence include woven wire (suitable for protecting or excluding small livestock or wildlife), temporary or permanent electric fence and modern high-tensile fence.
Besides weighing the costs and benefits of different fencing materials, other things to consider when planning a fence include terrain, state and local laws regarding boundary fences and livestock and wildlife travel patterns. Poorly placed fencing on rough terrain is hard to maintain and can lead to soil erosion by livestock or wildlife.
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Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District