Soil and Water Conservation

Johnston County, North Carolina



Laying Out Fence Line

Set a stake at each end of the proposed fence line and station another person at one of the ends. Startling from that end, set a stake every 100 feet with other person verifying the alignment of the stakes with the two end stakes.

Setting Posts

First, locate and set corners, turn points and gates. These are the foundations of the fence system which keep the wire tight. Use treated posts, black locust, red cedar, or other material of equal life and strength. Use a minimum of 5-inch diameter for corner posts. The usual spacing for intermediate posts is 10, 12, and 30 feet apart for barbed, woven, and high tensile electric wire, respectively.

Height of the fence and the depth of post setting determine the length of posts needed. The corner posts should be set at least 3 1/2 feet in the ground.

Corner and End-Post Assembly

Following are the steps in constructing single-span assemblies. Repeat as necessary for double span assemblies.

  1. Dig the holes for the anchor and brace posts, spacing them 8 feet apart.
  2. Set the anchor post, but not the brace post. Tamp the soil firmly as you replace it around the post. Lean the top of the post 1 inch away from the direction of the fence pull so that it will straighten to a plumb position when the fence is stretched.
  3. Stand the brace post in its hole and fasten the wood brace to both posts. Use dowel pin construction for a strong assembly.
  4. Set the brace post, tamping the soil firmly as you replace it around the post.
  5. Attach the brace wire and splice the ends together. Tighten the wire by twisting it with a strong stick or rod. Leave the stick or rod in place so that you can adjust the tension when necessary.

Woven Wire Fences

The styles and designs of woven wire fencing are designated by a three- or four-digit number; for example, 1047 or 939. The first or first two digits indicate the number of line wires in the fencing and the last two indicate the height in inches.

Stay (vertical) wires are spaced 12 inches in fences for horses and 6 inches for hogs and cattle. Standard designs of woven wire fencing are combined with barbed wire.

Barbed Wire Fences

The 12 1/2-gauge wire with 4-point barbs is the most widely used for cattle and horses. The lighter 15 1/2 gauge wire is also used. Unroll, stretch, and fasten one line at a time. In a combination fence, attach the barbed wire below the woven wire first. Then attach the wires above the woven wire, starting with the lowest one and working upward.

Erecting The Fence

  1. Fasten one end of the wire roll to the anchor post, leaving enough wire free to wrap around the post and splice. If the anchor post is a gatepost, remove the barbs from the wire to be wrapped around the post to prevent injury to persons or animals using the gate.
  2. Wrap the wire around the post and splice it onto itself, 3 1/2 to 4 turns.
  3. Unroll the wire along the ground to the next anchor post. Unroll it straight off the roll - not off the side.
  4. Set up a dummy post about 8 feet beyond the second anchor post and brace it. If you are erecting a combination woven wire and barbed wire fence, you can use the dummy post set up to stretch the woven wire fencing. Attach a fence stretch or a block and tackle unit to the dummy post, and attach the wire to the stretcher unit.
  5. Staple each strand of barbed wire to each line post. Drive staples diagonally with grain of wood and at slight downward angle, not against the wire so tightly as to bind wire to the post so animals pushing against wire cause wire to pull staples from posts. Slack strands may be tightened in later years by loosening wire at corner post and restretching if wire is not bound tight to each line post. Stretch top strands of barbed wire first so other strands will not tangle with those in place. Use 9-gauge galvanized staples with minimum length 1 1/2 inches for softwood and 1 inch for hardwood.

Safety Precautions

  1. Wear heavy leather gloves, boots or high shoes, and tough, close-fitting clothing.
  2. It is dangerous to use a tractor to stretch woven wire or barbed wire fencing. While up on the tractor you may not be able to tell when the fencing has been stretched to the breaking point. If the wire should break, you could be injured seriously by the recoil of the clamp bar, chain, or fencing.
  3. Carry staples, nails, or other fasteners in a metal container or in an apron -- not on your person. Under no circumstances carry them in your mouth -- a common but extremely dangerous habit.
  4. When stretching woven wire or barbed wire, stand on the opposite side of the post from the wire and stretcher unit.
  5. If you handle preservative-treated posts, do not rub your hands or gloves on your face or other parts of your body. Some people are allergic to the chemical.


Fences for the Farm and Rural Home, USDA Farmers Bulletin No. 2247, and Material Specification 591.

Where to Get Help

For assistance in planning and establishing fencing on your farm, contact your Soil Conservation Service.

For more details, see SCS Conservation Practice Standard 382 - Fencing