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What kind of fence will contain sheep but is safe for horses?

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I'm in the process of preparing my pastures so I can bring my horses home from their boarding stable. I'd like to try a few sheep as well.


Most of the sheep fence I've seen has small square openings that would be just the right size for a horse to catch his foot in. I'd planned on doing electrified rope (EnduraSoft or similar) at 1 foot intervals to 4 ft high for the horses. But will sheep find their way through this kind of fence?


I know some of the members here have horses - what kind of fencing do you use that will contain sheep but is safe for horses? Ideas greatly appreciated.

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I had the same delima when I first got sheep. I put up the woven wire horse fence down to the ground, then raised it up with barbed wire strands on the top. I found if the horses couldn't get their heads over the fence to lean on it, they didn't get their feet stuck in the wire either. You will need wire down to the ground in order to contain the sheep. You could also put an electric wire on the inside to extend in about 2 foot to keep the horses off the fence too. Good luck.

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Thanks for the replies. I should have added that I can't use wire of any kind, having treated two serious leg lacerations from wire this year. Horses, I believe, are basically suicidal. :rolleyes:


Would it work, do you think, to put the first strand of electric rope at 6" from the ground? Or would the sheep still get under?

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I second the red top/no climb fence. I have horses and a few visiting sheep, and no escapees yet. I do run a strand of hot wire across the top due to my old guy that loves to push on the fence. Your horses should be safe with the no climb, not really anything to get hurt on. It is pricey though, but I think it's the best option.

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If this product is anything to go by, then yes, it is very expensive -- $266 per 150 foot roll FOB Iowa. It's called Closemesh, and it's a high-tensile wire with verticals every three inches




Whether rope could be made to work or not will depend largely on what you're trying to accomplish with it. Are you trying to contain sheep that are well fed, under no danger from predators, are not lambing, and in a place where if they get out they're not going to get hurt or do damage? Rope might work just great. In fact, I know people who use much less visible conductors such as maxishock or intellitwine and as few as three strands with a very hot charge on it to contain well-trained sheep with few if any incidents.


These, however, are the exception rather than the rule.


Most places where horses are kept have little or no grass on them after a while. Even if the sheep are offered good feed within the paddock in the form of hay and grain, they will want to get out of there's grass visible on the other side. They'll find a way out of three- or four-strand fences if they're pressed.


Four strand rope fence will not offer adequate protection from predators, and it will not contain lambs unless the bottom strand is three inches off the ground or less, and the second strand is no more than four inches above that.


I'd look at a low woven wire around the outside of the fencposts, with a couple of strands of rope or tape above it and one on the inside to keeep the horses off the woven wire. Premier's new fencing catalog has some pretty nice designs.

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Hmmm....Thanks, Bill! Although woven wire is out of my price range, you've given me an idea. Can I ask just a few more questions, please?


What if I got one of the electric netting portable fences from Premier and ran it outside my four-strand electric rope fence?


Would I need to do the whole perimeter, I wonder? On two sides, my pasture is bordered by a ditch with woods and heavy underbrush on the other side. Would sheep be likely to stray in there, since there's no grass, just lots of briars and vines?


I'm planning to fence off my four and a half acre pasture into two or three paddocks so I can rotate the stock when the grass gets grazed down, so (hopefully) there will always be grass. The equine carrying capacity around here is two horses/acre/month - anyone know what it is for sheep?


If sheep do get out, are they likely to roam very far, or just hang out and munch the lawn? They couldn't get into much trouble unless they went a half mile or so from the farm, which is where the nearest paved road is.


As far as predators, I *think* I've heard coyotes but haven't actually seen one. My neighbors' loose dogs :rolleyes: would probably be my biggest threat - but my younger paint horse, Quanah, *adores* chasing dogs and may soon cure them of roaming near my stock once he gets home. :D


My sheep book says that sometimes farms will sell off middle-aged ewes, so I'd sort of thought I'd start with a few of them. Would that be the best start for an absolute sheep rookie, or would lambs be a better choice?


Hope I haven't peppered y'all with too many questions. Thanks for all your replies.

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I have about 7 1/2 acres, and have it split up into 2 acre paddocks, so I can rotate the 4 horses . I have four borrowed sheep, and I keep them up in a small pen during the evening. We have coyotes out here as well, and I don't want to take a chance on them getting eaten . I also have a paint that hates dogs so he'd probably dispatch any coyotes, but you never know. And on that note, I don't know how many horses you have, but if they are loose in the pasture, you may want to be careful when you first introduce the sheep. Don't just turn them loose and leave. My horses were very curious, and I don't know if they thought the sheep were dogs or what, but they surrounded us, and made little charges at the sheep the first time they saw them. Even if they were just playing, they could probably do some damage to the sheep. I've had the sheep here for about 3 weeks or so, and am just now where I trust putting them all out together.

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I have two horses - the younger, Quanah, has never seen a sheep so he may be terrified at first. :eek: Knowing him, though, it won't be long till he thinks up some way to entertain himself with them. :rolleyes: The older horse, Bram, is more of a live-and-let-live type.


I thought I'd start with the sheep in an adjacent paddock, like you do with a new horse, and see how things go.

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Our perimeter fence is a mesh fence made for horses - think it's what they called an H-mesh. Can't remember the company, but it's tight enough they can't get a hoof through and they also had one that was supposed to be small enough that foals couldn't, either. It was expensive and is a pain to put up (very heavy and hard to handle), but it's nice. We've had horses lean on it and no problems (to the horses, that is - we have to eventually tie the fence back up).


Growing up, we had a pasture that barely had one piece of electric wire going around it - and that kept the sheep in 98% of the time - basically unless they decided they wanted out. They also knew that was where they were supposed to be, too, so I think that was the main factor - new sheep in new pasture might not have worked. Electric fence can work for sheep, but you'll probably have some escapes until you get it right.


Another option might be a mesh fence with an electric strand running inside to keep the horses off the mesh. I've seen some insulator's for T-posts that stick out several inches - might be enough to keep the horses back. Or combination board fence with electric.


Whatever you use, keep in mind that if a sheep can push under it, they will, and if they have much fleece, they don't feel an electric fence unless they hit it with a nose or ear. Also, if there's a stupid way to get hurt on a fence, your horse will find it - and at the most inconvenient time, too.

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Me again,

My sheep don't go far - if they get out they tend to end up in the barn ransacking the hay and making a general mess or eating the flowers and bushes. Horses are much worse - they like to play catch-me-if-you-can over the neighborhood (Arabs are especially bad when this happens - 2 or 3 miles is nothing to them).


I would guess that 3 or 4 sheep would be equivalent to 1-2 horse in grazing capacity for a pasture - that's taking into account that they'll have lambs periodically. Start out small and work your way up to see what your pasture handles.


Especially once the horses and sheep are together, a horse that likes to chase dogs and sheep will be a very good protector, but you may have problems with coyotes and dogs. If you have a barn that the sheep come up to at night, it helps a lot - even if they're just up around the buildings and house, it takes a braver predator to come up after them - but it does happen. Lights and radios at night might help if you have a problem. A barking dog does wonders, too.


Be cautious about buying middle-aged ewes. Usually, if I'm selling ewes, it's because they aren't producing what I want (tend to throw buck lambs, throw white instead of colored - I raise & show Natural Coloreds, or tend not to be show quality) or because they are rotten moms and/or have problems of one sort or another. If a ewe is not suitable for breeding, I send them to market or auction, or at least tell a potential buyer the problems with them, but not everyone will. Wish you were closer, got some I'm taking to an exotic auction in 10 days that some of them would give you a nice start - others are more iffy - so you see my point. Advantage of GOOD, older ewes - they're proven and hopefully will have fewer problems at lambing time. I wouldn't look at anything over 4-5 years of age.

Time for me to shut up. Good luck - hope the horses don't freak too much over them - my mare loves to "herd" the sheep - aka chase them all over. Not good, especially with young lambs though - have to keep them apart then.

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Jordi - it sounds like the woven wire fence is out of my league right now. I need something I can put up myself that won't break the bank, since I'm also seeding pasture and putting up a barn. You're absolutely right about horses finding the craziest ways to hurt themselves - and my two always manage to do so right before I have to go out of town. :rolleyes:


If the sheep won't go too far, they won't be in much danger if they get out - someone in our neck of the woods had a goat escape and stay on the loose for several weeks, camping out at one house and then another. :D He was none the worse for his adventure.


The main danger would be to whatever crop our tenant farmer plants, I suppose. :eek:


I wish I could take you up on the ewes - but I'm still in the planning stages right now. First we need fence, and pasture - and Violet (BC) and I need to learn how to work sheep! :cool:

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We have all our pastures fenced with "cattle

panels." It works out to a dollar a foot. The

sheep cannot push through it and can't bend it

all out of shape as sheep like to do. With any

fence that I have horses in I always like a hot

wire on top. It elimanates fighting over the

fences and stops them from scratching their

rumps or necks and ruining the fence.

If you keep the sheep and horses together

provide a small area where the sheep can get away

from the horses when they get to playing too rough. Also some horses can be very jealous of their food. I had one kick a ewe in the head when it wouldn't heed the horses warnings to get

away from it's feed. Fortunately the ewe was

no worse for wear.

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