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The basics of a pen is to contain animals to a specific area for management or safety. This can give you a lot of freedom to design with resources you have to meet your and your animals’ needs. There are a few design differences to keep in mind for horses, cattle, and sheep/goats.
If you have access to a power source (solar, battery, plug in), electric fence can be an option for most livestock. Horses and cows will respect a single strand hot wire, calves will need a second or third. Sheep will need 4 wires, with 2 hot. Electric fence also gives you the flexibility of easily moving or rotating pastures. Keep in mind, if the fence goes dead, animals have an amazing ability to know when it’s no longer on and will let themselves out. Electric fence is a great option for open grazing space. It does not work well for close corridors/high pressure areas.
For sheep, cattle panels work well. I have tried woven wire before, and it just doesn’t hold up to ewes trying to climb the fence and heads get caught too easily in the squares. Hog panels may work for sort breeds, but most of the time they are too short, and the sheep will jump out. Keep in mind for sheep you need some kind of predator deterrent or protection. The cattle panels are tall enough to deter many predators looking for an easy meal, but a determined one will search for openings. That is where a livestock guardian animal (dog, donkey, llama, etc.) comes in.
For horses in a confined area, cattle panels will work for the short term, but they will start to reach over and bend the panels if there isn’t something sturdier. You can put an electric wire across the top to keep them from leaning on the fence. Across the front of my fence, I have 4 rails of 2x6 boards. This is a very sturdy fence, but it has the hay and feed on the other side, so a sturdy fence is needed there. The other 3 sides are 4 strand smooth wire, with 2 hot. This gives me the ability for bottle calves to run there if needed.
Cattle in high pressure areas need something even sturdier. If you are only running a few head, you could get by with a simple cattle panel pen. If you are raising and moving many cattle through a chute system, you will need strong fencing, pipe is the most common as it can handle the pressure of large herds pushing on it while moving along.
Your fencing needs will depend on how much pressure your fence is under. The more pressure, the sturdier your fence will need to be. Increase pressure comes from an increase in the number of animals or a decrease in total space or a combination. Keep in mind the goal and function of your fence (open grazing or protecting from extra feed). Then take your needs, space available, with the my tips and start designing!
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