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So... the property I'm looking at currently is only partly fenced. The interior fencing isn't in great shape and won't keep dogs (mine included) out or lambs in, that's clear. The perimeter fencing is five-strand high-tensile wire. (It's currently being used for cattle). It's in so-so shape - the posts are in good shape (though I'm told it won't pay to try to recycle them), but some of the runs between posts are 30-40 feet, and in one or two spots, erosion along the stream has created what screams to me as "superhighway for predators", though the current owners have barricaded it some with tree trunks and big rocks. That might work for cattle, but sheep are not cattle.

 

This part of Maryland (near the MD/PA line) has predators - coyotes for sure, possibly other predators, dogs most certainly. Predators are my big concern - I figure if I can keep them out, then I can keep the sheep in. I'm willing to entertain the notion of an LGD - but Baltimore County has zoning ordinances that cap dogs at 3 per household (my current count). I'm looking into how easy it is to get an exemption for a farm without having to get a kennel license, but don't yet know the answer.

 

I'm thinking of putting in as much perimeter fencing as I can afford at a time.

 

Premier Supply’s catalog recommends 32” high tensile woven wire with 2 strands of (nonelectrified) high tensile wire on top (to protect the woven wire from falling trees, I think) and one strand of barbed wire 1” above the ground to discourage digging by dogs and coyotes. They then add two energized offsets ~ 10” above the ground and ~30-45” above the ground on the grazed side.

 

I showed this design last week to two of my mentors, and they both felt it was overkill. They didn't seem to think the two strands of high tensile on the top would be useful, and they'd go with higher woven wire. They weren't sure what to recommend about the barbed wire/hot wire. But then one (from Idaho) has LGDs, and the other (who doesn't have LGDs) hasn’t had a problem with coyotes in her part of MD. In searching similar posts on these Boards, I see where some people have expressed concern about barbed wire at the bottom. Might keep dogs out, but could hurt sheep.

 

I’m mindful of how expensive perimeter fencing is (having gotten two quotes already for wildly divergent prices), and “overkill” could add up fast. One quote ($11.50 per foot!) specified posts at 8' centers, the other ($3.25 per foot) at 15' centers. Gates extra, of course.

 

I *am* thinking of using 2 x 4” woven wire instead of 4 x 4” woven wire – the cost per roll of wire isn’t that much more, less risk of losing ear tags, and I figure it would retain its value better if I were to sell the property when I’m old(er) and decrepit to someone who wants to keep horses (very popular in this part of the state) – just run some electrified tape (for visibility) above the woven wire if I were to use higher woven wire and omit the high tensile. (I also know that fencing that isn’t suitable is a liability, to the tune of $2 per foot to have the present fencing dismantled and carted off).

 

So here (finally) is my question: what would you all recommend in terms of perimeter fencing? And what would you recommend at the bottom or top (if anything) for predator control? The ungrazed sides of the pastures follow a stream (on one side, with a cornfield beyond that), a driveway (to be "our" driveway), and the neighbors' back yards (I don't think most of them keep livestock, so no concerns about their cattle or horses leaning on the fencing). There is a short run along one pasture with someone else's pasture beyond. I didn't see any livestock there while we were looking at the place, but obviously I'd need to keep the neighbors' use in mind in deciding how to fence that one portion.

 

Also: are sheep smart enough that if you disconnect any hot wire at the bottom during times of low predatory pressure that they'll graze the fenceline for you (at least on one side)? I sure hate to spray herbicides, especially right along a stream. (Though weed whacking both sides of a mile of fencing could also get old).

 

Thanks for all of you who take the time to provide your input!

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Have you considered either a donkey or a llama as a guardian animal? If you get the right one, they seem to be pretty good. With reasonable fencing, they won't get out and they don't tend to wander like LGDs sometimes do.

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I know donkeys that cheerfully kill lambs (and will try to kill dogs), so I'm disinclined towards them. I've also talked to people who have had bad experiences with llamas (as in, llamas that would try to mate with their ewes even after having been gelded, with bad outcomes to the ewes - these llamas also got aggressive toward humans). The person who relayed to me her negative experiences with llamas at a clinic the other weekend finished by telling me that what makes a llama better than a donkey is that if all goes wrong... you can always butcher and eat a llama.

 

Hoping that fencing that would keep predators *out* would also keep an LGD *in*, if we went that route... And that the neighbors (and my spouse) would learn to ignore any barking. But I think I'd prefer to avoid *needing* any livestock guardian animal, if at all possible (I've also heard of LGDs that would kill lambs - or that would go after rams when they were attempting to mate with ewes!).

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For fenceline maintenance, I mix 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of salt in 1 gallon of water and spray that. It doesn't kill every thing, but it kills a whole lot down here.

 

I use 4 foot tall woven wire and I really like that height. Down here the 2"x4" is sold in 100 foot rolls for double the price per foot as 4"x4" 300ft rolls. I use the 2"x4" in areas where the horses are going to be in closer contact for longer periods and the 4"x4" where they have more room to move around and are less likely to challenge/mess with fences. My fence charger is the absolute strongest I could get, 15 joules, and the horses don't test to see if it is turned on, but after one zap, neither do the dogs. We run a strand of hotwire near the ground for predators.

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I have a very small area permanently fenced for my sheep but because I'm more concerned about predators - we have coyotes, wolves, and black bears - my setup might be 'overkill' to many but it makes it easy for me to sleep at night. :)

 

I have 48 inch woven wire. I have five strands of high tensile wire on the outside for predator control. 3 are hot, 2 are grounds. I use a 12 volt Parmak solar charger that carries a lot of punch.

 

It was expensive for sure but then again I was only doing a small area at this time. During the spring/summer, I use Premier's Electrostop fence for rotational grazing but put the sheep in the secured paddock at night.

 

If I were fencing a larger area, I would look at running high tensile spaced appropriately for keeping sheep in and predators out. One site I reviewed, I believe ran 7-9 strands.

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I have coyotes (occasional sighting, but can hear them at night more often) and have, so far, not had a problem with them attacking my alpacas. I have 5' 2 X 4 woven wire with posts spaced about 15' apart as perimeter fencing. Interior fencing is 7 strand high-tensile. [i don't like the high tensile because I have had several incidents of an animal pushing their way through to the next pasture, (Hmmm, I thought I only had 8 animals in this pasture, not 9.), and because I have also had a couple of incidents of legs getting caught. Neither happens with the woven wire.] No other fencing, no guard animals. So far, no coyotes and no bears.

 

If the wooden fence posts are in good shape (i.e. not rotted at the ground level), keep them, and put metal T-posts (or similar) in between them at 10'-15' intervals to strengthen whatever fencing you decide on.

 

Are you able to find Mennonite or Amish fencers in your area? When I lived in NJ, we used a Mennonite group from PA that traveled about 2 hours to our place. ( I don't remember their name.) Their pricing was about 1/2 of what the local "fence companies" quoted (when they deigned to return our calls).

 

My neighbor who runs cattle uses a couple of donkeys as guards. It is a mother and son. Before the son was gelded, he was 'playing' with the newborn calves by grabbing them by their necks and shaking them up and down. I think he lost one or two calves that way. Although llamas are said to be guard animals, it takes a particular personality and the correct upbringing to be a good guard llama. Not all llamas are cut out to be guard animals. I think that is where people are disappointed with llamas as guards. Also note that sheep and llamas share parasites.

 

Also with regard to LGDs: I do not have them, but have friends with them and have done a lot of reading. Again, good breeding and appropriate upbringing are important for a successful LGD. I have heard too many stories of people who just get any old LGD and throw them in the pasture with their livestock without the essential early socialization to livestock.

 

As KrisK notes: fencing off an interior paddock for night can keep your livestock more secure since there is another level of fencing for any predator to go through.

 

There is no single method for 100% predator control. Most people are successful using 2 or 3 separate approaches.

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I have some pasture in woven wire, but for the most part rely on electronet. If I had the extra money I would love to have more woven wire. I purchased my wire from Fleet Farm, the roles were 350ft, can't remember cost as it was well over 12 years ago. It was cheaper then ordering from Premier, but then not everyone has the option of having a local store that carries fencing. Yes woven wire is on the pricey side but if built correctly it will last a long time so it is worth the investement.

As for LGD's I have several friends that use them and they can't imagine having sheep without them.

 

Samantha

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Field fencing on the perimeter, 2.x 4 in part and welded wire in barn area...plus one Arab mare who really protects her sheep and two LGD and ironically enough a flock of geese and guineas who alert to anything odd....when they alert, I get up and look, the horse run overs with the dogs and it is either a stranger, the loose pitbull or lab, or a predator. I had e-fencing but in snow it didn't work or when it got shorted or no charge.....mainly tree branches would fall on it when I was at work and all would escape. I would do e-fence but as a day pasture.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Once sheep are familiar with the ground, they don't need much fence except when panicked, when graze is gone, or in the spring when graze is just off your property.

 

Fencing depends how much money you want to spend. When I redid our trial field I put in high tensile woven wire on 8 foot centers. It'll see me out.

 

 

If the wooden fence posts are in good shape (i.e. not rotted at the ground level), keep them, and put metal T-posts (or similar) in between them at 10'-15' intervals to strengthen whatever fencing you decide on.

 

I'd second this suggestion. A single hot wire at nose level would make the old fence sheep-proof

 

Don't spend your money until you have some real sense of your needs. There is no "turnkey" farm but there are plenty of farms newbies have thrown money at only to realize later it wasn't well spent. Listen to your new neighbors about fencing, predators, hunter access, water sources, lay of the land and what grows well and what doesn't. Listen. They have more useful information about your piece of ground than we do.

 

Although you can construct a predator proof paddock, unless you are Warren Buffett you cannot construct a predator proof farm.

 

In deeply rural country, like mine, LGDs are a no brainer. On exurban farms your neighbors may (a) feed them or ( shoot them for endangering their cats. The LDGs are much more inclined to wander and they can get out the same holes coyotes get in. Depending on your state's Freedom to Farm laws, you may not be able to import "nuisance barkers" onto a farm surrounded by townhouses. You'll want to check the county dog laws and what exemptions apply to working animals. I've a kennel license because it's cheaper than individual licenses.

 

You are misinformed about llamas and donkeys. Unlike LGD's they are limited to the one pasture they're in and you can't send your dog for the morning gather until you pull the guard animal, but lots of smallholders swear by them.

 

I'd suggest you invite one of your mentors out to the proposed farm and have him/her talk with a savvy neighbor. Sheep farming is a wonderfully complex, life enhancing, tragic, beautiful, frustrating, rewarding (except financially) activity. Your farming will be specific to the particular farm you buy.

 

I hope it's as wonderful for you as its been for Anne and myself.

 

Donald McCaig

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In MD, once you exceed 8,000lbs of live animal weight or $2,500 in annual sales of livestock you will be required to submit a nutrient management plan which now also includes working with Soil Conservation to fence off animal access to streams and other wetlands. The government will help offset the cost of this fencing but they will also have requirements on that fencing. The monies they offer are based upon fence type; more money/lineal foot is available for high tensile than for woven. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation also has grants available for fencing if you are willing to have trees and shrubs planted in riparian zones on your property; these grants will also come with some fence construction requirements.

 

My recommendations are to secure barn yards/paddocks with the fencing of your choice; purchase e-net & solar energizer (4 rolls will make a nice rotational grazing area); and then live on the farm for a while. The number of sheep you would like to keep and the way you would like to manage your flock on this farm will guide you towards the best fencing (and gate placement) for that situation.

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Hi Lynn,

 

Just wanted to second and third what Donald and Mark said: start with a portion and see how it works. Electronet and a solar charger is a wonderful investment! And you can always start out by grazing the sheep using the dogs instead of fences.

 

Even with the most well-researched plan, I bet once you move in and have animals you'll find something that you wish you'd done differently. "If only there were a gate here" or, like you said, the change in seasons may reveal unforeseen challenges!

 

So excited for you!

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I agree with Mark and Emily. That said, where I live, the fencing is 2 x 4 woven wire, with a strand of barbed wire at the top and at the bottom (neither is offset). At my old place, I had 4 x 4 woven wire and a strand of barbed wire at the bottom. In both situations, the barbed wire seems to do the job of keeping predators out. I've never seen a dog or sheep tangle with the barbed wire, let alone get hurt. I think you'd have to have pretty poor pasture and pretty hungry sheep before any would try pushing under the fence (and thereby encounter the barbed wire) to graze.

 

I know of one producer who is perimeter fenced with high tensile electric fencing. He runs 10 strands, and I believe that alternating strands are hot, maybe more closer to the ground. It keeps his sheep in, and they are wool sheep who are insulated (obviously) from electric shock. I'm not sure how well it keeps predators out, but the bottom strands are really close together, so I'm guessing anything trying to go under or through would get a pretty good shock.

 

On the gates--I always believe more is better. That's one advantage Emily pointed out--if you wait on some fencing, you can see where the patterns are as far as how you would want to move stock or get yourself in and out of pastures. Plus you can then plan gate *sizes* based on those needs, with larger gates where you would want to move equipment through, for example, and smaller gates where you need only human/dog access.

 

I also wouldn't use any guardian other than a dog. I had a donkey that I raised from a foal with my sheep and once she matured she harassed the ewes, and as Donald pointed out, even though she had been worked with the flock as a youngster, she couldn't be trusted not to go after my dogs once she matured. So having her in a pasture sort of defeated my ability to just go to the gate and send a dog for the sheep (because I'd have to contain her first, and by the time I walked the dam* pasture to get her I wasted a lot of time--this was when I was moving sheep from pasture to pasture, some as far as a mile from my house, so I didn't need the extra walking to go get the donkey under control). With the LGDs, all I had to do was yell their names when I got to a pasture gate and then it was safe to send my dog in, even if I couldn't see the LGDs or the sheep. Couldn't ever do that with a donkey.

 

When you finally decide to fence, you may find that a perimeter fence is all you want, so that you leave your larger spaces as large as possible. You can rotationally graze within the perimeter using the electronet.

 

J.

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I have 2 dogs I send in the pasture with my donkey and yes these dogs are quick on their feet. Once the stock is close enough I either chase off the donkey or catch it up and move her elsewhere while I work.

 

My donkey stays more with my cows usually on the far end of the pasture. I also have LGD's but we have very rough ground with lots of brush/trees and LOTS of predators. We did have a big cat cause a breakout from elec net once. And I've had a pack of dogs cause a breakout from elec net fencing. The dogs excited the sheep and some ran into the fence and the others used those caught in the net to jump on to get out. Best protection is a sturdy pen at night with guardian animals in/around it. Hot wire on top of the pen and scare wire near the bottom on the outside.

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I definitely found that some of my original choices on where I wanted gates didn't work for me. Also I did major changes on positioning of 3 different fencelines in my cross fences. Fortunately, they were just hotwire at that point, much easier to move. And I have sandy soil, easy to place a post, easy to remove a post.

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Thanks, all, for the input! I may try to fence only the large field (my "training field") the first year (it's only a little ways off a somewhat busy road, and I do NOT want sheep taking off through the neighbors' unfenced yards onto it!). I've talked to one person already who has kept sheep a couple of miles away for ~35 years, and he says that he has had no problem with escapes or predators with five strand high tensile wire. (BUT, he has hair sheep, whereas I'm thinking of wool sheep, with built-in insulation, and he also doesn't work his sheep with dogs). I could buy some electro-net to keep them in the barnyard area at night at first (for added security; there is fencing there already, just not predator proof) while I figure out the gates and best way to divide up the remaining pastures and whether I want an LGD. (Linda and Barb have offered to come out and give advice on pasture layout as well). Because of the terrain, there are some logical areas for gates, and there's already a LARGE gate from a currently-fenced pasture into the biggest pasture, the one I'm thinking of fencing.

 

If I get a guardian animal, I'd want a dog, and I would like to try to locate a trained LGD. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I'm sure that many breeds that have been taken over by ACK have lost the necessary instinct.

 

I'm leaning toward high-tensile woven wire (2 x 4") with driven wooden posts (5-6" diameter) over high-tensile wire, in part to preserve the value of the investment I'll eventually make in fencing. My "horsey" friends tell me that there's a prejudice against high tensile wire for horses (and northern Baltimore county is definitely horse country: it was hard to find a farm that didn't have a six-stall center-aisle barn, complete with tack room, with more square footage than the house possessed). Not being horsey myself, I take my friends at their word. Three or four-board fence is all the rage in this area, but I've also seen some well-run establishments that use 2 x 4" woven wire for horses.

 

I'm definitely going to ask whoever I get estimates from to see whether the existing posts could be augmented. They looked to me to be in good shape, for the most part. The property is pretty close to the PA line, so I'm thinking getting estimates from Amish folk in the next state would be a good idea.

 

I'll also be sure to check into the Soil Conservation Service and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (thanks, Mark, I hadn't thought of that last one!) as soon as I get a moment (I'm currently mired in the last week of classes, but I'm hoping to make it back to my ag extension office next week if I get a chance). The ag extension agent I've been talking to (who seems a pasture expert) is happy to come and have a look at the pastures once we get past Dec. 15. I've already been reading up on nutrient management plans and on composting dead animals. It all seems do-able if I get myself a tractor (hoping the sellers will offer theirs for a decent price - they seem like the sort to keep everything in good running order, as the place is in immaculate condition).

 

Soils look good, and water is available (three improved springs in the lower pastures, two at 16" height, one at 24" height; my local ag extension person assures me I do not need to fence them off from the sheep). There are also hydrants at the barn and at all of the pastures except for the large "training field" (it's only a 10 or 20 foot run to that field from the nearest hydrant, though). I am definitely too old to schlepp water! The stream is fenced off from the animals; there's an unimproved spring/seep in one corner of the property that I might have to fence off or improve.

 

It's all very exciting! Y'all will have to come and work dogs once I get set up! (Oh - that's right - once you buy that farm, you NEVER have time to leave your own property, right?). Outrun won't be as long as it is at your place, Mark, or at yours, Emily, but I'll take what I can afford :)

 

It's right on the edge of an area that's in ag conservation, and the surrounding properties are all zoned "RC-2", which means that the owners have the right to subdivide, ONCE, if certain conditions are met. But Baltimore County is trying hard to keep some corridors "agricultural" (this being one), and getting permission to subdivide is nigh-on impossible. So I'm not worried about McMansions springing up all around me. For all that it's near a main road, it feels quite secluded, with nothing but farmland to the west. The house itself is a farmhouse that dates back to 1795, with two modern additions (a kitchen and a "great room"), and lots of natural light. Just have to hope we can talk the sellers down in price!

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This horse owner definitely has a prejudice against high tensile. Well, I'm not sure you can actually call it a prejudice, if you have first hand experience. My best friend kept her horse at a barn where that's what they had. The horse rolled near the fence and got his leg in and out through the fence. His struggling took the tissue off the front of one of his rear legs down to the bone, and he still didn't get loose. When they found him, they had to cut him out. We had to treat his leg nonstop for about 3 months and then twice daily for 3 more months and then once daily for 3 more months. He went from being a wonderful dressage prospect to yard ornament that day and never did make his way back.

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Really?!? You're giving me hope, Mark! I was thinking it might suit for hosting a novice trial or maybe a clinic at best. This terrain DEFINITELY isn't as complex as yours (no "ledge of death" here!), but the biggest field also isn't dead flat (one of my criteria). According to the topo map, there's about a 45 foot difference in elevation from the high part to the low part of the largest field. There's a low ridge that cuts across it at an angle, maybe six or eight feet high? That's probably enough to make a blind outrun for someone who (like me) is vertically challenged, though I suspect you'd be able to see above it. More fun for training for me!

 

My estimate of distance was purely "as the crow flies", using the little measurement tool that comes with the "My Neighborhood" website that Baltimore County provides. The actual distance would be longer. But I don't have a good sense as to how far from any fencing the setout should be, either, so maybe the outrun would, in fact, be shorter. The crossdrive would definitely be a challenge, as it'd have to be at an angle.

 

 

Lynn, our outrun is only about 250yards; it's the terrain that makes the outrun feel bigger and more difficult.

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Dear Lynn,

 

You can have a sheepdog trial pretty much anywhere that's dog and sheep safe. I don't know Maryland circumstances. In Virginia, putting a conservation easement on ag land is worth real money and might help you finance the farm.

 

Donald McCaig

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I know of a similar story to GideonsGirl's, except this horse got its leg hung in one of the hot strands of high tensile. The outcome wasn't as good as what GG described above. The owner was devastated. This was a farm that was mainly for cattle and the fencing was for the cattle. But horses were kept there, and this particular horse lost its life.

 

J.

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Lynn,

Robin French's field isn't huge either, but it can be made quite tricky. You can also add elements (e.g., Maltese cross, trailer load) to add difficulty to a trial.

 

J.

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All great suggestions, keep 'em coming! Donald, we're definitely going to look into getting this property (if we buy it) added to ag conservation. It's not big enough on its own to qualify, but because it's contiguous with a large area that's already in ag conservation, I've been told that the county would find it attractive to add, and there would be some significant tax advantages.

 

You all are adding to my conviction that high tensile wire is NOT what I want - not for the new fencing I want to add, for sure, and you're giving me more reason to replace what there is (as soon as I can afford to do so).

 

Fun thoughts, Julie, for making this more of a possibility for trials! Parking might be a challenge - the pasture next to the barn would probably be the best bet. I hope it could be done.

 

I'm going to print out the topo map and bring it with me to the Long Shot trial this weekend. If anyone finds any reason why I should think twice about putting in an offer, *please* let me know! I'd rather hear of potential warts now than after we're into it up to our eyeballs. Linda has been showing the listing (which I'd emailed her) to people. Her husband told her to tell me "As an attorney, I advise you to buy this property!"

 

Still got to talk the sellers down in price.... it's a good thing that there's one member of the household (my spouse) who is fiscally responsible.

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