Farm Fence Can’t Stop All Great Escapes

Whatever the type of livestock you keep, expect some to find fascination with the other side of the fence.

| January/February 2010

  • Chickens going through the fence.
    Chickens require very special fence to keep them in. Simpson
  • Sheep in the road.
    "Your sheep are blocking the road" is not a phone call you want to receive.
    Shutterstock/Joe Gough
  • Ongoing fence repair is needed to keep the livestock in.
    Ongoing fence repair is needed to keep the livestock in. Calfy

  • Chickens going through the fence.
  • Sheep in the road.
  • Ongoing fence repair is needed to keep the livestock in.

The great escape might occur late at night, while you’re fast asleep. Or the afternoon you drive the youngsters to town for their dentist appointments. Or the very week your husband takes a few days off to go hunting or fishing.

Chances are you may not even be aware that an escape has occurred until the following morning, when you go out to feed the livestock. “Wait a minute,” you think to yourself, “there’s something wrong here. We’re supposed to have five chickens/cows/goats/horses/pigs/sheep, and I only see three!”

Before you call the sheriff’s office to report rustlers in the neighborhood, you might want to check for signs of a breakout. Because if there’s a way to escape the confines of a pasture, pen or corral, livestock will find it.

Unlike prison convicts, livestock probably don’t spend months planning a jailbreak. More likely, their actions are motivated by boredom or curiosity. Goats, for example, generally aren’t looking for a life on the lam, but they do seem to enjoy the challenge of climbing or jumping a 5-foot fence. Give a goat a launching pad, and it can take off like a bottle rocket.

Cows universally believe the grass on the other side of the fence is sweeter, lusher and more desirable than anything growing in their own pasture. You’ve probably seen cows spend day after day stretching their heads through strands of barbed wire or between fence rails in an effort to reach one more alluring tuft of grass.

The problem, of course, begins when the force of their weight eventually weakens a fence post or pulls the staple nails loose, creating a doorway to a buffet of unimaginable delicacy. That’s when you may find your herd happily grazing in your flower bed or munching their way through the neighbor’s corn or alfalfa field.

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