Editor's note: The following is from our Ask the Expert forum on barns and farm building, with the response by Tony L. Cochrane, AIA, of Animal Arts.
Q: There's lots of flooding going on in Oklahoma and our neighbors in Texas. I've seen all the video about horses trying to get out and getting caught in the wire fencing.
We don't have any animals caught in flooding, but we have wire around our property (we have cattle and our horses live out with the cows). I know we'll have to replace some of that fence that got washed away by our creek, but is there anything that cheap and sturdy that isn't wire?
I just hated seeing those horses struggling.
Any other tips for building in an area that gets flooded? I know we aren't the only region this happens to each spring.
A: We hated to see newscasts of horses swimming around in flood waters, and we’re sending our thoughts to our friends in Oklahoma and Texas. We wrote an article about flooding and horses that we’d recommend as a resource:
The gist of the article is that if you must have a pasture in a low lying area, it really should be connected to higher ground so that horses and livestock are able to get out of the path of the water. It’s just so unsafe to fence a horse in a low lying area where he can’t get away, but this is not something most of us think about until we have been through one of these flood events.
To directly answer your question about fencing, wire fencing can be dangerous when it is not connected with a hot wire (electric fence) that normally prevents horses and cattle from leaning against it and entangling themselves. And a wire fence will not be properly electrified during a flood.
For a step up from wire, you should consider a pipe fence. The reason we suggest this is that you are containing cattle and horses, so you need to use a product that the cattle won’t just push through. Pipe fence will not be destroyed so easily, and it is a lot safer than wire.
Perhaps the biggest reason why we think this is a fit for you is your location in Oklahoma, where pipe is prevalent due to the oil and gas industry. In that area of the county, pipe fencing is pretty affordable. I’d suggest going to your local farm and ranch store to view the pipe rail fence products that are available and price them out.