Tuesday, March 02, 2021
Whether you’re managing ranchland in the watershed of the mountains or taking care of pasture ground in the flatlands, spring thaw means more water on your property. If your fence line crosses a river, stream, or creek, ensuring your water gaps are secure is a critical spring activity. Bekaert Fence Pro, Steven Sarson shares his expert recommendations after working with acreage, farm and ranch owners for more than 30 years.
The ideal water gap keeps animals in and acts as a floodgate, allowing water and debris to continue flowing.
If you have cattle or horses, you can allow up to two feet above the waterline. If you have smaller animals like goats and sheep, you will want a more secure space between the water and the fence’s bottom. Consider a submerged fence that allows normal water flow and swings out of the way when the current increases.
As you make your plan, consider the following
There are no “one-size fits all” when it comes to water gaps. The best advice is to think about your stream and its banks as a U-shape you are trying to fill.
The structure itself has three major components:
The most important thing is to ensure the gate matches the contour of the land/stream bank. If using panels or boards, cut your pieces to match the contour. In high water, the gate will swing to float in the water and allow debris to pass. In low water, livestock cannot cross under it.
For this water gap, you can use multiple strands of barbed wire running from bank to bank. It is commonly used in situations where there is little or no normal water flow.
Run multiple strands across the gap and attach a rock or weight to the bottom of a center wire. Wrap the weight around each cross wire and fasten at the top. A wood post or log can also be used to hold down the bottom line. This keeps your gate from gapping in low or no water situations.
Any of these materials make excellent water gap supports. Specifically, we recommend galvanized pipe or wood treated for use in high water situations. Remember to drive support posts into a sturdy place on the bank.
Braces are intended to support a fence under tremendous strain when the fence is tensioned (i.e., a corner brace). While it doesn’t hurt to install a brace, most water gaps only receive pressure from one corner or end brace. In most situations, you do not need corner-style braces as the bank-edge posts.
Yes. We recommend using a current-limiter on your water gap section to maintain a charge to the rest of the fence if your water gap fencing grounds-out. Remember, in most cases, an electric fence is psychological for cattle, not a physical exclusion. A current limiter is recommended to keep the fence from shorting out when the water rises.
To prepare for installation, slide crimp sleeves on the cross wire, bend the wire 90-degrees, and crimp it down. With all pieces added, attach the cross wire to the post, and set up your limiter.
Identifying your water gap needs based on livestock species and water flow volumes gives you a great start to your project. The installation process will go more smoothly by preparing your plan and selecting the right materials for your water gap needs.