Beginning Sheep Farmers Guide on Fencing for Sheep

Fencing to keep your sheep where you want them is important. If you have to build a large amount of fencing, it can be very costly. When I bought the my first two ewes I had no plan, I had not made the decision to be a sheep farmer. I kept my sheep in a exercise pen I used for my horses because that was the only place they would not get out or escape from.

Sheep farmers use many different type of materials to build fences. The important purpose of a fence is to keep the sheep where you want the sheep to be. I have seen fences build from wooden boards, wooden poles, and stone. But there are building materials I have not seen that are used in other parts of the world. Explore the options in your area. Sheep farmers, for the most part love to show people, especially potential buyers, their sheep. Anytime you would like to visit a sheep farm near you, it is courtesy to call and make an appointment. Do not be afraid to ask them about the fencing, shelters and even feed, as it is a good resource to learn. I am sharing what is available in my country and area that I have used.

I graze my entire place with sheep. There is a big advantage where I live in letting the sheep graze everywhere. The coastal grass grows very fast in the warm months. Before I had sheep, I mowed for two hours twice a week. I thought now I have three sheep I will let them do the “mowing” for me. The first lesson I learned was sheep love roses. My rose garden was seriously pruned the first day I let my three sheep out to eat on the yard. If you choose to let your sheep graze everywhere, you will need to fence off where you do not want them to be. I now have an area for my rose bushes and garden fenced off using portable sheep panels. I purchased these panels, a few at a time, at farm auctions. I am able to remove the fencing around the garden, once it is done growing to give the sheep some addition grazing area.

When I first started raising sheep I used the exercise pen. This exercise pen is 100 feet X 100 feet, pipe posts with a welded top rail and bottom where the woven fencing for horses, 2 inches X 4 inches rectangular spacing is attached. When I made the decision to become a sheep farmer, my three sheep needed a shelter. I built a small shelter I could move with our tractor. I had horse pens made the same as the exercise pen. When I sold a horse, the sheep were able to graze that pen. As my flock grew, these small areas were not large enough to provide the feed my sheep needed. I would have to eventually use our ten acre pasture for grazing.

When we purchased our place all the fencing was metal T-posts and 5 strands of barbed wire for the perimeter and the limited cross fencing. We had made changes around the house and barn to metal posts with top rail and bottom rails and horse fencing. But our pasture was still the T-posts and 5 strands of barbed wire. Our original plans was to use the same style of fencing around our pasture perimeter we had used around the house, yard and horse pens. Our life took a major financial change, we could not afford to purchase the pipe for the fencing. The number of sheep I had was not able to provide the money needed to buy the pipe. The pasture fence of T-post and 5 strands of barbed wire is nothing for a sheep to go through. We had to change the type of fencing for the perimeter fence to keep the sheep home.

We considered electrical fencing for the perimeter fence. Electrical fencing is easy to put up, and was more affordable than horse wire fencing or sheep and goat wire fencing. There were two reasons we choose not to do electrical fencing. One was there are some weeds sheep and other livestock do not eat. I would have to mow to keep the weeds from grounding out the electrical fence. Second, we have a ravine and some hills on the back of our property making it difficult to keep growth down as a mower was able to reach those areas, the sheep do very well getting to those areas. We chose sheep and goat wire fencing. In 2017, the sheep and goat wire fencing was about 2.00 per linear foot, but multiply that by almost 8,000 feet and there is major expense. We placed the sheep and goat wire mesh along side the barbed wire to keep a perimeter fence as we have three horses and they could keep grazing while I put the wire up. I had to put some wire hog panels where the sides of the ravine were too steep and ground too loose to put in regular fencing, and to cover some low spots where the sheep could get under the fence. My first few sheep were hole searching, fence crawlers, and was probably why they were at the sale barn. The previous people got tired of finding them and bringing them back home. If one sheep finds the hole in the fence, all the others follow. I patched a lot of holes.

There are other pens you may need to build as well. We have two stalls in a barn we use for lambing and a place keep the rams when they are not with the ewes. I have weaning pen for the lambs when they are weaned. And a quarantine pen for newly purchased sheep before I turn them out with my flock. I was able to build these pens as I my flock grew.

My next step is fencing for rotational grazing in my pasture, by cross fencing to make two different pastures. The cross fencing will be electrical net fencing from Premier1supply. I need to be able to move this fencing for when we do ground work with the tractor on pasture such a aerating and fertilizing.

During lambing time, I have small portable fences used for lambing jugs. These panels are only used during lambing and stored when I am not. They are light weight and easy to put up or take down.

I use portable sheep panels when I separate the lambs from the ewes at weaning time. Since lambs do not like to leave the ewes and they do not move or herd very well, I use the panels to form a trail to the weaning pen. I also use the panels to form a alley to the load in lambs I am selling. By having the portable panels, I am able to move hay or equipment easily around my place.

I use various types of fencing around my place that perform different jobs. Take a look at your place and make a plan on what fencing and type you will need or that will make your work easier and faster. Decide where you are going to keep your sheep, where you are going to wean your lambs, where your rams are going to stay. Then decide on what type of fencing you are going to need for that job or location.

There are sheep farms that do not put the sheep on pastures or in pens that require fencing. The sheep are kept in huge barns year around. The sheep are divided with permanent or portable fencing and sometimes a combination of both.


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