This from a farmer in with hedges:

Hi Shawn and Beth,

Well, that day has finally come…its way past time to start fencing in this farm and quit chasing cows when they get out of their polywire enclosure.  I call the farm Polywire and a Prayer ;-).

My question concerns fencing the hedgerow at the north end of my 12 field.  Should I leave a lane to be able to mow both sides of the fence, or do I put the fence right up against the hedgerow?  This will be a 3 or 4 strand high tensile perimeter fence.  

Hedgerow will need maintenance for years to come since they are early succession trees, i.e., box elder and ash trees (which are taking a beating from the emerald ash borer).  I am trying to add more variety with trees that are longer-lived and provide fruit, flower or feed to birds and insects.

Reasons why to fence with a lane or not?:

Fence with a lane: yo be able to maintain both sides of the fence; to gain access to work inside the hedgerow and transition the trees from box elder  to hardwood, conifers and fruiting trees, creating edge effect for wildlife, etc.

To fence right up aganist the hedgerow: more pasture and less mowing; I am worried about the trees from the hedgerow dropping into the fence.

Thanks for your ideas, comments and suggestions.

Well, just our opinion, but when fence borders woods, we always make sure the cattle can penetrate into the edge space.  We use just one or two strands of 14 ga. galvanized hot wire on t-posts and rebar posts, since, yes, sometimes a tree or tree branch will fall on something, and a couple of strands of hotwire make repairs very easy — if the branch is too heavy to lift, just walk the fence back to closest splice, undo it there, snake it out from under the offending branch or tree, and re-fasten the splice.  Fencing to avoid trees means losing access to a lot of pasture, and to all the good medicinal forages that live at the woods’ edge.  And if you’re really trying to avoid having trees on your fence, you have to go way, way outside the tree line before you erect your fence.

I can imagine, though, that if we had hedges, we might fence so as to make lanes along the hedges.  That way we could give periodic access to the hedge and its edge-species forages, and use the lane for back-and-forthing to the dairy:  good for the health of the hedge and the cows.  I assume, by the way, that the hedge isn’t adequate to use as fence right now?

You mention mowing on either side of the fence.  Is there a need to mow?  I don’t mean under the fence — that may have to happen, if you don’t keep sheep, but for that we use a scythe.  Yes, a 12 acre pasture may be a long fence to scythe, but it can be done.  Or use a weed-whacker.  But do you need to actually mow next the fence?  Can’t you just graze that area?

I’m envious of the hedge.

What do you think?

Beth D.