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6 Things to Do Before You Build Your Livestock Fence

Bottom Line Up Front: Proper planning is necessary when building a livestock fence. Determining fencing requirements, locating utilities and property boundaries, and careful measuring are the first steps in building a good fence.

Things to do before installing building livestock fence sketch plan
Sketching out your fence plan helps visualize what you need to do.

We all know the 4 Ps: Planning Prevents and Poor Performance. It's no different for the projects on your farm, and one project in particular that you'll want to avoid a poor performance on is the fencing you use for your livestock. Poor planning can result in wasted money and time and a fence that doesn't keep your animals contained or safe. Before you head off to your farm supply store, you should go over the steps below to ensure a successful fencing project.

1. Determine What Kind of Fence You Need.

Research fencing requirements to safely contain your livestock. Consider the type of wire you should use as well as space between posts. Also, think not just about the animals you have right now but also any animals you may add in the future. 5 strands of barbed wire may be fine for your cows, but if you add sheep or goats later you will find that same setup is inadequate for keeping smaller animals contained.

Remember the old saying: measure twice and cut once.

2. Locate Underground Utilities.

Oh how I wish I had taken a photo of one of my first disasters in fence building. I was so sure I knew where the city's water line lay, so imagine my surprise when I pulled the auger on the tractor out of the ground and up came a geyser of water behind it! It was a humbling lesson for me. I had called 811, the service you should contact before you dig into the ground. They assist in located underground utilities. But... and this is VERY IMPORTANT... they may not locate all of them. Someone from the power company came out, and another from the phone company, and they marked off the area where lines were. I felt good and proceeded, assuming all applicable utilities had been marked. What I neglected was the message I got in an email back from the 811 service that I would need to call the local municipality for water and gas line location. Thank goodness there was not a gas line in the area!

things to do before you build livestock fence utility marking water line
No broken water lines on this dig.

So learn from my embarrassment. Check with 811 before you dig, and make sure you know what they do and do not mark. Also be sure to know how close you can dig to marked lines. The 811 rep I spoke with said no closer than 18 inches, but I don't know if that's just for my state or everywhere.

3. Mark Property Lines and Easements.

If applicable, you need to identify the edge of your property so that you're not accidentally fencing in land that belongs to a neighbor, or conversely cutting off area that belongs to you. Likewise you must avoid blocking off an easement area. Check your property's survey or deed for this information. If you don't have one, you can request a copy from your county courthouse. Putting up a fence is hard work. Taking one down that's in the wrong spot is demoralizing.

4. Measure, Mark, and Plan.

Now you know where to put your fence and to stay clear of utilities. Start measuring and marking off where you plan to build the fence. It's a good idea to draw this out on graph paper and spend some time thinking through the design. Consider locations of sizes of gates, feed areas, water lines and troughs, barns, and so on. Also plan for any obstacles or significant terrain you will have to fence around or over.

Things to do before building installing livestock fence marker line planning
Laying out a marking line helps you to measure and plan appropriately.

5. Get the Right Tools.

Just like any project you embark upon, make sure you have all the proper tools on hand to get the job done. Most fence projects will require the tools outlined in my earlier article on the topic.

6. Budget for Fencing Materials.

You've measured, planned, and determined what tools you require. Now list out what materials you need to get the job done. Remember the old saying: measure twice and cut once. If you've done proper planning you will know what materials you need and in what quantities. Price out the materials and check it against your budget. If you want an idea of how much fencing materials cost, here is a link to another article of fencing costs that breaks down the expenses to price per foot for typical sheep and goat fencing..


We've all rushed into a project around the house without the right tools or materials, and maybe spent too much on the wrong supplies at the hardware store. Don't let that happen on your livestock fencing. It's too big and too important of a project, so take the time to plan it out properly so it's done right the first time. You'll be glad you did.

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