Well planned and properly constructed deer fencing has a huge impact on the efficiency of deer handling. The long term benefits of ease of management from good fencing is realised with a reduction in time taken on fence maintenance, as well as reduced personnel time chasing deer around due to inadequate fencing. Deer fencing is inherently expensive to construct due to the quantity of materials that are used. Deer can be extremely hard on fences, and often cause damage to posts, gates and netting. This is mainly due to deer behaviours such as: pacing, fighting, rubbing of antlers/buttons, and attempted escape. If short-cuts are taken during initial construction then the on-going maintenance of substandard fencing can be substantial. The Noxious Animals in Captivity Regulations 1969 are still in force, so fences must be strong, and they must be secure.
The normal height of deer fences is 1.9 to 2.0m for both internal fences, and boundary fences.
Regulatory requirements for fencing
All deer farms located in regulated areas of New Zealand, e.g. northern and upper-western parts of the North Island, require a permit or authorisation from the Department of Conservation (DOC) to farm deer. These regulations are enforced in these areas becuase there is minimal numbers of wild deer in these areas. The main conditions related to fencing are:
- Specific minimum standards are met with regard to perimeter or boundary fences.
- Fence inspections may be carried out by DOC every 2 years.
- Deer farmers maybe required to notify DOC of any deer escapes from their farms.
- Further information can be accessed from the DOC factsheet explaining its deer farming regulation and fencing gazette notice.
- Fence types
- Netting is a common material to use for both internal and boundary fences. A mesh size of either 150mm or 300mm seems to be an individual preference, however 150mm is more common on intensive farms, or fawning paddocks.
- Wire and batten
On hill country wire and batten is often an easier option to construct, and provides a better visual barrier to the animals. In broken hill country the main problem is to prevent animals escaping under the bottom wire. Bulldozing fencelines before fence construction should be considered in broken hill country as it: makes transporting materials to the site easier, constructing the fence more straight forward, and provides a future track for vehicles movement. Spacing of fence posts are usually between 5-7 metres apart.
A very common situation in NZ is for existing sheep and cattle fences to be adapted to hold deer. This can save on fencing costs, however you are constrained by existing fence location. Detailed descriptions of fence adaptations from sheep and cattle height fences to deer height fences can be found in the references at the bottom of this section. In all situations the existing fence must be in good condition, this may require replacing or ramming loose posts, straining up wires, and re-stapling wires/netting.
Electric fencing is suitable to contain deer in paddocks. However, it should not be used to contain stags that have hard or velvet antler as entanglement in the electric wire can cause death. Deer should be moved quietly and calmly when shifted in and out of electrically fenced paddocks. Maintaining good power supply to electric fencing is vital if deer are to be properly trained to respect it and remain in the paddock where they are supposed to be. At least 4kV should be maintained in the system at all times for effective containment of deer.
To allow paddock subdivision to facilitate break feeding, temporary electric fences can be used. Flat electrified tape is the most commonly used product for containing deer effectively. This is because flat tape is more easily seen my the deer, and provides a better visual barrier. Temporary electric fences are unlikely to contain stags during mating time, or during the rut, or panicked animals.
Controlling post and fence damage
During the rut stags will rub their buttons (if velvet removed) against fence posts, trees or other objects. Fence posts can rapidly wear away, become weakened and break. Stags can also fight between themselves through fences when held in adjacent paddocks, this also causes substantial fence and post damage. The use of electrified outriggers can prevent stags from damaging fence posts and netting. A single plain electrified wire about 60cm up from the ground and held 25cm out from the fence is a good position for the outrigger wire. However, electrified outriggers should not be used in paddocks used for stags with hard or velvet antler (for reasons discussed above).
Gates and gateways
Commercially available deer gates are usually 1.8 metres high. Sheep and beef height gates can easily be adapted to deer height by welding galvanised water pipe to extend the frame height, and using mesh, or even deer netting for the inner panels.
Gateways between paddocks or into raceways can be configured in either a 'V', 'three' or 'four-way' configuration. Detailed information on how to construct the various gateway systems can be accessed from the deer farming handbook (website link below).
The rule of thumb for post length is that at least one third of the post length should be below ground to ensure fence stability. The diameter of the posts chosen is dictated by the following factors: length of strain to be supported, type of deer, soil and fence type, and fence spacing. End assemblies are more a choice of the individual and come down to personal preference. Diagonal or horizontal boxed stays seem to be the most common.
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Click here to open the guide to building safe and practical deer yards
The Deer Farming Handbook has a good section on Deer Fencing.
The Fencing Contractors Association NZ has very detailed information and factsheets, discussing all types of fence construction and best practice techniques.