A wood fence is only as good as its gate. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of prize livestock; where the individual inside the wood fence is highly valued, be it a herd of alpacas, a thoroughbred race horse or even your child’s cherished pony. Whatever the species and whichever wood fence gates you choose to install, one fact is certain — whatever is inside the fence wants nothing more than to get out.
It might be that backyard pony who believes that the grass not only looks greener, but probably tastes much better on your neighbor’s putting-green perfect back lawn. It might be that prize thoroughbred who doesn’t care that the lady down the road happens to be a donkey. He’s a boy. She’s a girl. In the world of equine romance, that’s all that matters. As for alpacas, no one pretends to know what they’re thinking; but when they get loose, good luck getting near them much less bringing them home.
Whatever the species, all critters seem aware of one fact. The pasture gate is the weakest link in the wood fence gate that surrounds them. It’s critical to select gates with the same forethought with which you choose your fencing. Your animals’ safety and yours depends on it.
Just like fencing, styles of gates are endless. In general, be it made of wood, plastic or metal, a livestock gate should contain no rough or unfinished edges. And the slats or mesh should be close enough together to preclude hooves from getting through it or stuck in it.
Make sure wood fence gate are wide enough, but not so wide that they become unmanageable. You have to get through it along with your animals, but also keep in mind that a tractor or truck with attached trailer might need to get through as well.
Make sure the gate swings freely so you can enter and leave without having to muscle your way through. One of the safest approaches is to use a 2-gate system. The outer gate lets you into a small paddock that, in turn, leads to the main pasture gate. That old rancher’s maxim about closing every gate behind you becomes a little less critical when the main gate has a safety backup to prevent escapes. As for in-swinging or out-swinging gates, it’s a matter of preference. In general, an out-swinging gate is safer for handling animals as it pushes them away from you, while an in-swinging gate offers a bit more leeway through which to drive vehicles.
A gate must be properly installed to work safely. Gate-hanging is both an art and a science. A badly hung gate tends to get worse, not better when you try to fix it. It’s best to enlist professional help to get the job done right the first time.
Aesthetics matter. The greatest looking pasture fence comes down several notches when the gate resembles something cobbled together from discarded plywood out behind the barn. The gate material doesn’t necessarily have to match the fencing, but it should have a durable coating that can withstand all kinds of weather. Just like the fencing, any coating must be non-toxic. Along with pushing and pawing, livestock loves to chew, even if they’re chewing on metal. And try to keep all gates the same in terms of style. It simply looks more attractive.
Carrying the topic forward, if a fence is only as good as its gate, a gate is only as good as its latch. Once again, choices abound, both in style and material. As long as it’s breakout-proof and easy to maintain and use, it doesn’t matter whether latches are made of iron, aluminum, stainless steel or brass. Don’t scrimp. A handsome gate tied to a fence post with a piece of chain or frayed rope does a disservice to the overall look of your property. And it’s far from safe.
We’ve been designing and installing large fencing systems for over seven decades. Whether you’re considering an all new wood fence gate for your farm or upgrading an existing layout, contact us to get the best advice our years of experience can provide.