"A good fence makes good neighbours" is a comment I once heard at a farm walk. But there is more to it than that. Good fencing improves profits by aiding the farmer's ability to manage grass appropriately.
How often is a field closed off in the autumn only to discover that the ewes found a hole in the fence and got back in? Or lambs weaned that manage to find their way back to the field of ewes that have just been dried off? Or the ram that broke into the dry hoggets in December?
There are lots of options when it comes to keeping sheep in confined areas. The most commonly used is sheep mesh with barbed wire on top. However, electric wire and even electrified mesh are also possibilities.
In general, I would favour a mesh plus a strand of electric wire on top as this option allows for further subdivision of the field/paddock with temporary, electrified sheep netting.
However, where fences are placed along hedges, the use of electric fencing will require a lot of effort in keeping the vegetation in the hedge from earthing the fence, and in this case a barbed wire option is better.
On marginal ground where soil conditions are poor, some farmers choose to place a strand of barbed wire under the sheep mesh, keeping the mesh 10cm (four inches) above ground to prevent corrosion.
In this case, a second strand of barbed wire may be needed 5-7cm above the sheep mesh, particularly if the fields will be grazed by cattle.
Electrified sheep netting, or significant lengths of electric wire, will need a strong mains energiser to provide sufficient power to keep stock away from the fence. Barbed wire should never be electrified as anything that becomes entangled in it will not be able to free itself and will be electrocuted.
Even running a strand of barbed wire close to a strand of electric wire is not a good idea as if an animal becomes entangled in the barbed wire it will almost certainly be electrocuted when it comes in contact with the electrified wire. The one big benefit of using electric fencing is that it has a role to play in keeping foxes and stray dogs out. A single strand of electrified wire 30-45cm off the ground has been found to be effective in the Teagasc farm at Leenane in keeping foxes out of the lambing paddocks.
Field entrances should consist of hung gates that can be quickly and safely opened. However, gates are not eligible under the new TAMS scheme.