Building a Fence for Added Property Value
Ask any property owner their least favorite task. We’d bet good money that “fencing” is the likely answer. You may even bear scars on your hands and arms resulting from a day among the barb wire. Do they even make gloves tough enough to stop a steel barb or a thumb-smashing hammer?
While fencing seems to many as a daunting task absolutely nobody looks forward to, it is a necessary evil, literally shaping the property. Folks like to see the tangible and a property without boundaries might as well have an “Open to the Public” sign. Fencing your property will also help keep animals out. Imagine you’re a deer hunter and you spend the spring and summer cultivating lush food plots. One day when you’re not around, Farmer Finnegan’s cows get out, and as cows can seem to detect a healthy greenfield from a mile away, they venture on over uninvited to chow down. All the work and money you put into that food plot goes down the proverbial drain.
On the other hand, a fence is beneficial to keep animals in if, say, the kindly Finnegan wanted to sell you a few head because you’ve recognized the price of beef is coming back around. Building and maintaining a fence will keep people and animals out by setting a boundary as well as improve appearance and resale value.
Planning the Fence
Fencing is a long-term investment. And like any wise investment, planning is the key. Look ahead to the outcome because once a fence is up, you’re not going to want to tear it down and rebuild. A fence can easily last up to 50 years, so looking at all possible scenarios in which the property might be used is paramount. Will you decide to turn a sage pasture into a cornfield? Maybe you want to plant trees or start a hay-cutting operation. Is there leasing potential for other farmers to come in and work the land? Maybe you just want to become a land baron and eventually buy all the property around you. Regardless, unless you have deep pockets, plan far in advance. Even if you can afford to pay someone to do all your fencing, there’s something special about tackling such a task and conquering it; being able to sit back at the end and say, “I did that.”
In the early stages of the planning process, sketch a topographical map of the property or use CalTopo. The easiest way to prepare a sketch of your farm is to start with an aerial photograph. A good aerial photo shows details of the present farm layout, plus some indications of the lay of the land. These photographs have been made of practically all farming areas.
It’s smart to make a point of identifying the capabilities of each part of the property. You’ve had soil tests done and know that corn or beans grow better in the back 40 than they do in the acidic soil of a pine flat. You don’t want to neglect the land from reaching its full potential because of an errant fence. Again, you’re not going to want to tear it down.
Select the Fencing (and Materials)
Will it be barbed wire, rails, wood, woven wire or just a good ol’ goat fence? You’re likely going to already have this in mind beforehand as big projects as such usually arrive as a vision. The type of fence you will need depends on the livestock, crops and other vegetation nearby.
A barbed wire fence is put to the test by a cow reaching for greenery on the other side.
Frightened horses might try to run through a fence while cattle will crawl over them. Sheep go under. So do hogs. Any livestock will put a fence to its greatest test when there is a lush green crop on the opposite side. If you don’t plan on owning any animals, then it’s really more about appearance and denying entry to people and keeping livestock out. Also depending on what type of fence you choose to build, consider the necessary materials to put it up and keep it there: nails, staples, posts, hammers. Did we mention gloves?
Like most construction and maintenance jobs around the farm, fence building requires proper techniques and common-sense judgment. Every fencing job presents slightly different problems. A few basic principles are good starting points. Consider establishing the fence line - knowing your property’s boundary. Neglect here can be a costly mistake. Clear obstructions like the trees or ever-imposing Johnson grass or thistle, for example.
On level ground, install an end post at each point of the run and a string or a single strand of wire stretched between the two posts to establish the line. Where hills are too high to sight the line from one end-post to the next, surveying equipment can be handy to establish the location of intermediate points on the line. Alternatively, intermediate sighting stakes can be driven at the tops of hills. Two of these temporary stakes should be driven about eight to 10 feet apart at the approximate position where the line will cross the crest of the hill. If both posts appear to be lined up when sighted from each end post, they represent a true midpoint of the line. If not, they can be moved back and forth until they are properly aligned. Take your time with this. A crooked fence can cause great mental stress.
For any wire fence, corner-post and end-post assemblies are probably the most important structures of the entire project. They are the foundation upon which the fence is built. These points need to be planted the deepest because it’s necessary they withstand a lot of pressure; likely several thousand pounds and they’ll be pulled in at least two directions.
A fence, like any farm implement or improvement, will live long and prosper if properly cared for. Check your fences regularly for debris and damage. Keep tools and building materials handy should a tree fall or a particular board become weather worn. Spray with RoundUp regularly to keep intrusive grasses out.
Hang a Gate
A good fence needs a steady gate. Again, if you’re going for appearance or resale value, the buyer’s eye is going to assess the fence as they drive around the property. The gate is the cherry on top, so buy or build one with character. You’ve put the work in, now it’s time to complete the investment.