Fencing

So many trees, so many deer.
herd

L and I have been going around and around trying to figure out a fencing plan. Tired of losing trees and the prospect of putting more in is beginning to weigh on us.  So I’m reaching out to my virtual neighbors for some perspective.

treemap

Perimeter fencing
This would be our most expensive option. 10ft fence running through forest and over a creek seems like a daunting task to install and maintain. It might keep the deer out but elk scoff at fences. Trees regularly fall and maintenance and perimeter checks factor into the deal. A 24 acre perimeter means a lotta lotta fence.

Perimiter-Fencing

Paddock or group fencing
We have rows of trees planted on contour but in many different areas of the farm. We could put up fencing row by row or group two or three rows at a time. A little more manageable, but larger groups need height to be a deterrent, smaller groups can be lower  as it provides a very small landing strip for jumpers. Electrifying these might provide training to our year round nibblers.

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The additional downside is that if we do areas larger than the rows themselves (and we do intend to alley graze between rows) we are stuck with massive deer fences to deter leaping over the fence. This could look pretty ugly and “the eyes gotta eat too”.

Cages
Manageable but labor intensive. Lots of fence required if we consider 6-8 ft diameter and more t-posts too. This makes it much harder to pick fruit and prune. Currently we have about 60 fruit and nut trees. 180 T-posts and about 400 ft of fencing material to start and we have plans for many more trees.

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We are asking for your help.
So what do you do? What actually works and what are the downsides? Give us the value of your actual experience with this problem. How much maintenance do you do on fencing, does it seem worth it? Keep in mind we aren’t on this property full time and even a dog or two might not do the trick as we have cougar, coyotes, and bear that would love to snack on them.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

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About M. Agriculteur

Designer, motorcycle junkie, traveler, wanna-be iron butter (more butt than iron), builder, foodie, farmer wanna-be.
This entry was posted in Farming, Gardening, Permaculture, Tree Care, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Fencing

  1. bobraxton says:

    I am absolutely no help at all.

  2. Is that top picture taken on your farm? If so, whoo, boy…you’ve got a serious deer problem. I have deer, but not in that quantity.

    All the farmers around here say that hunting combined with fencing is the only thing that will work long term, and you’ve identified the flaws with fencing – the biggest being expense. Here on my tiny patch, I just fence in the things that need protecting (veg garden, for example), but you’ve identified the flaw with that too – it tends to keep me out as well as the deer. I really like your middle idea – paddock or group fencing. I admit it lacks eye appeal, but frankly once you start alley grazing you’ll be using some sort of fence anyway. It might as well be a high one.

    What I have learned from experience is that deer are adept at going under fences if they’re not strung tight or with enough wires close together. Electric will need to be high enough that that they can’t leap over it, and probably either lots of wires close together or netting.

    It would help if you had dogs there full time, and free to roam, at least part of the time. My deer problem, albeit nothing compared to yours, increased after our dog died.

  3. Masha Zager says:

    Individual caging doesn’t work very well, we’ve found. The deer can knock the cages over. And perimeter or area fences (except for the veg garden) are prohibitively expensive. We’re experimenting this year with 6-foot tree tubes from plantra.com. They’re supposed to protect the trees until they’re above the browse line and sturdy enough to withstand deer rubbing, etc. I don’t know about elk, though!

    • Thanks for the input on cages. We may have to do a few at any rate but I was hoping to stake them down with t-posts. Were you using t-posts and the deer STILL knocked them over?

  4. Wet blanket here, we finally gave up, and now only plant things in zone one which we (actually the dog) can control, the rest we figure will go to the deer or elk. Fence maintenance costs and anxiety finally outweighed any possible harvest in the future. It took us a while though to realize we were only getting older and less able to maintain far off fencing etc. Our thinking is now more centered realistically (maybe) if we build a 20 year fence, will we be able to afford, and be physically able to work on it when we’re in our 70’s? Getting over that hurdle for us was a huge thing, less stress and more results. The only fences I have actually seen work on excluding deer and elk near here, are the 8 or 9 foot woven wire fences with an offset regular height fence built four feet away. Expensive but effective.

    So glad you’re posting again, I always enjoy reading the posts you two write as you develop your new place!

    • Weeeeellll. Somehow I thought that was going to be an answer. All these things look good (ish) on paper or in quick discussions but marching about the property with measuring tools and putting numbers down gave us a little heart attack. I’m all for a meeting with a “fencing professional” to see what the real cost might be and if we are missing out on some fencing miracle.

      I read somewhere about scare tactics being effective near deer paths. Like those inflatable dancing tubes on an electric eye. LOL.

      We’ve been quiet a while with the longest cold I have ever had. Which I then gave to L. After a lot of tea and an epic Netflix binge we are back at it again with gusto. 🙂

      • Glad you’re feeling better, there’s some nasty stuff going around. Thank heavens for Netflix 😉 I feel your pain about the deer! They drive me crazy, and here the poachers and hunters are equally bold, I need a fence to keep them all out!

  5. DM says:

    We don’t have elk or bear but we do have lots and lots of deer. (neighbor saw at least 75 of them in a herd running down the road a few years ago…normally, they are in much smaller groups of 5 to 10. anyway, with our apple orchard, We used the 3 strand electrical fence with the apple scent bait cups with some success. put out by Premier Fencing..but in your case, I would not recommend it. it is not 100% effectively still any eye sore and cost 2/3’s a much as the 8 ft fence. I wish I would have put in the full 8 ft high fence the first year (that was in 2002) it would have saved me a lot of $ in lost trees and stress. 3 years ago, I bought some of that heavy plastic deer fence..(it comes in at least 3 grades) I didn’t have the $ for a metal fence @ the time or I would have went that route. In your case, if I were you, I would bite the bullet and install the metal 8 ft fence, or at least do it in stages. the plastic deer fence works for us, but I’ve noticed by year 3 the UV rays of the sun have started to do a number on the strength of the plastic. I also put an 1/8 inch cable top and bottom and zip tied it to that. I put a 10 ft 4 by 4 every 20 ft and 10 ft pcs of 1/2 inch rerrod between the 4 by 4’s to give it stability, and tied some safety tape every 8 to 10 ft @ deer eyeball level. I do think if one were on a dead run, they might not otherwise see it and make a mess. That’s my 2 sense worth. Our lab also has free reign of the orchard too, so I’m thinking she is a little deterrent at least during the daylight,

    • Great feedback. Anything starting with “wishIwoulda” certainly gets my attention!

      Yeah, the stress part shouldn’t be underestimated. Every drive down we wonder if we are going to find gnawed stumps. It echoes everyone too.

      >

      • DM says:

        I can still remember the first year we planted 40 apple trees….I had a split rail fence on the corners of the orchard for decoration..the trees were beautiful…until one June morning I went out and found 80% of them stripped bare..all of their new growth eaten by deer. Felt like someone had blind sided me. Nobody told me this was going to happen… ended up spending about $900 for that electrical fence I mentioned. It did work pretty well. Deer are creatures of habit, and once a couple of them get their tender little noses zapped with 6000 volts from a German electric fencer, they stayed away… one of the hassles is every 7 to 10 days you have to shut the fence off and re-apply more apple scent on the scent cups…no big deal, but it gets old. then in the winter (we can sometimes get quite a bit of snow, you won’t have to deal with) the drifts would cover the lower wires..yea, wish I would have stuck the $900 into a real fence out of the gate. I hate deer. Wouldn’t mind trying some tasty elk steak 😉

  6. Pingback: WORLD ORGANIC NEWS | Fencing | Le Petit Canard Farm

  7. Bill says:

    We used cages on ours and they worked. They were made from woven wire fencing. We kept them up until the trees were 7-8 years old. Eyesores but they protected the trees. We did lose a couple last year to buck-rubbing once the cages were off.

    I feel your pain. Deer are the biggest challenge we face on this farm. There are just too many of them.

  8. I’m sending you an email with more details, but for the sake of other folks, I would just say that a fence is not the only solution for keeping deer away from your trees. Planting certain deer repellent plants, using “motion” repellent techniques, and more can all be a part of a successful deer repellent program! I heard someone recently say on a forum, “Many arrows slay the mastadon.” If you google “natural deer repellent” there are a lot of good resources to help you save your trees without breaking the bank!

  9. Thanks Lindsay & Chris! I have to tell you that “many arrows slay the mastodon” was the quote of the weekend while we were out at the farm. We employed several of the smaller scale methods and have come up with ideas to break the larger scale ones down into manageable parts. There is no “one solution fits all” for any of this and your comments were extremely helpful in getting us to sit back and look at each affected area separately.

  10. Cages on trees outside paddock areas. In swale one I deposited some bottles filled with “human scent” and decorated the trees with some of L’s curly tresses – scorched with a lighter for added effect. We will fence those paddocks as soon as we have an idea of how much money we are in for and when we can get some labor on site. Our dog Maggie did a good job this weekend giving 5 of the herd “horde” what-for and was exceedingly pleased with herself as were we. She got bacon lickings as a reward.

  11. Whoa! My dogs demand bacon and eggs for that! I need them to read this…bacon lickings…

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