As heavy rain and flooding events become more common, planning ahead to ensure livestock fencing is set-up to minimise damage will help save repair and replacement costs.
Many fences have been washed away or damaged as a result of recent flooding, meaning many farmers will be tasked with replacing them this spring.
However, Malcolm Blackford, from Tornado Wire, says whether your land has been subject to flooding this year, or is at risk in the future, thinking about fence location will help protect against damage.
Mr Blackford says there are a number of key areas to think about when fencing near watercourses.
Mr Blacford says: “Keep fences as far away from watercourses as possible and avoid fencing close to the outside corners of river banks as this is where water is faster flowing and likely to erode ground.
“Positioning fences parallel to the flow of water can also reduce damage from debris should the river burst its banks.”
He adds, low lying dips next to a river are going to be more wet and prone to poaching by cattle. “This poaching will increase the likelihood of erosion during flooding, which will undermine any fencing. Prevent livestock movements to these areas by fencing around them.”
An area of fencing particularly prone to flood damage could be 50 metres (164ft) in the middle of a much larger fence. “Rather than having to replace the whole stretch when flooding occurs, put two straining posts in this particular section and brace. This will reduce labour and fencing costs should damage occur as you only have to replace that small section.”
Ensuring straining posts are driven further into the ground will increase their resilience to flooding. Mr Blackford says for example, if you normally drive them in 0.6m (2ft), put them in another 0.3m (1ft). Select longer and thicker posts as this will reduce the likelihood of the fence being pushed over.
“Also, make sure the strut is positioned long and low. If you put in a shorter strut, when strain is then placed on the fence, for example from water or debris, it will create pull and lift the posts out of the ground. A long and low strut will provide a good anchor for a vulnerable fence and minimise the amount of fencing which may require repair.”
“High tensile fencing is much stronger than mild steel and will be more resilient to pressure from flooding. It will not cost you any more and will be less prone to damage.
Mr Blackford says he would avoid stapling the netting hard against the posts. “This will allow the wire to move more freely so any strain is absorbed along the entire length of the fence.
“Use 50mm x 4mm barbed staples instead of plain ones. The barbed end and increased length means they are less likely to be pulled out.
“Also, do not over tension the fence. When tensioning, the crimp in the netting should be reduced by about 50 per cent. This will allow the fence to flex under pressure and reduce its vulnerability to damage.”
“Try not to fence across waterways, but if this cannot be avoided, use multiple strands of 3.15mm high tensile plain wire, rather than netting. This creates a strong barrier which is less likely to collect debris and come under strain.”
Finally, Mr Blackford advises against joining fence rolls together as this will create a weak point. “Rolls are now available up to 500m in length to reduce the need to join lengths together.”
Up until March 31, farmers in specific catchments can apply for a Catchment Sensitive Farming Capital Grant to help undertake practical work to improve water quality and reduce pollution.
This includes watercourse fencing, as well as fencing for buffer strips and new livestock tracks.
A maximum of £10,000 can be awarded per business, up to 50 per cent of the total cost of the work.
Contact your local Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer or visit the Natural England website to see if you qualify at www.naturalengland.org.uk