106-Livestock Panels: Top 10 Uses in the Garden for This Versatile Material

| Podcast, Resources

If you’re a gardener of any level looking for something to make gardening easier and save time – while also keeping things looking sharp – this episode is for you. You won’t find today’s featured items at any garden center, but I use them more than any other accessory in the garden – hands down. I’m talking about livestock panels. I use them all through the garden, so If you’ve been following me on Instagram lately, you might have noticed them. They’ve been front and center in several of my posts.

Livestock panels (also known as feedlot cattle panels) are designed for use with livestock, of course. That’s why you’ll find them for sale at farm supply stores. Here in the Atlanta area, I buy these panels at Tractor Supply Company.

A typical panel is constructed of a grid of openings 8” high x 6” wide. Goat panels are another option, with grid openings 4” square. The livestock panels I buy are 16’ long and 50” wide (at a cost of around $22), and the goat panels are just as long but only 48” wide (and are more expensive – about $64).

Made of 4-gauge galvanized metal, these panels won’t rust and are really sturdy. With a little muscle, you can bend them for more great applications in the garden. They are pretty much the ideal balance of strength and flexibility.

I use these panels in so many different ways, that I am determined to write a book one day listing 101 gardening applications. Today, though, I’m sharing with you my top ten list.


livestock panel as a planting template

Goat panel and livestock panel make perfect templates for plant spacing. I placed one lettuce seedling in each opening here, but for larger plants, follow the grid to place a seedling every few openings (depending on spacing recommendations).


A Love Affair is Born

It all began on a sunny, fall Saturday afternoon about seven years ago. I was preparing to plant my fall crops, and I had a lot of seedlings to get into the ground.

I like a tidy garden. Correction, I’m a little obsessed with having a tidy garden. After all, there isn’t much we can control out there. We give Mother Nature a run for her money, but she is always largely in control. That’s one reason I love an orderly garden – evenly spaced plants in neat rows. It’s the one thing I have absolute control over, before the chaos of the season sets in.

My planting board has been a good go-to for even spacing for years, but on this particular fall weekend, I was looking for a shortcut. Too many seedlings and too little time to plant them. Can you relate?

I scanned the landscape around the GardenFarm™, and my eyes fell on a goat panel propped against the fence. As soon as I spotted the geometrically perfect grid – I had my lightbulb moment. The grid was the perfect planting template.

The panel was too large to lay across my raised beds manageably, so I cut it to size with bolt cutters (those will set you back around $20 from a big box store). Then, I laid it across the surface of the soil. With the template as my guide, all I had to do was dig the planting holes, set the seedlings and press the soil back into place. Within minutes, an entire 4’x12’ raised bed was fully planted – and perfect.

Not only had it made planting fast and easy, but the ease – and end results – made it more fun too. I was instantly hooked on using goat panel as a planting resource. Moving the template from bed to bed, I was able to plant out all sixteen of my raised beds in just a few hours.


cutting livestock panels

Cut the cross bars of the grid to create wire spikes which can be easily pressed into the soil for stability of the cage or trellis. These bolt cutters are inexpensive and make the job easy.


I had only scratched the surface.

The next morning, I entered the garden and discovered that the chickens had been busy. They had hopped into the raised beds and made a mess foraging in the soil around my freshly planted seedlings. That’s when I realized that the goat panel could serve a second purpose.

When left on the surface of the bed after planting, the panel grid prevents the chickens from scratching around in the soil. The galvanized metal doesn’t rust, and the plants just grow up through it. So, there is no reason not to leave the panel in place.

Even better – by cutting a slightly larger piece and letting it rest on the top of the 4” sidewalls of my raised beds, the panel is suspended a few inches above the soil which blocks access from the chickens completely.

Guess what else doesn’t scratch around goat panel: cats! It used to drive me crazy when my barn cats would use my garden beds as a litter box. Not anymore – thanks to the goat panels.

They do a good job at keeping the squirrels out of my bed too. So, I think of them as an insurance policy against plant damage from nearly all digging pests. Meanwhile, my unmolested plants grow up through the grid. As the plants mature, you can’t even see that the panel is there.


protecting plants with goat panel

Plants grow up through the openings of the goat panel. When the panel rests on the sidewall of my raised beds, it keeps digging and scratching pests further away from the surface of the soil.


The Prospects Continue to Climb

Two great uses for goat panel discovered in just one weekend of gardening, but I was only getting started. On that second day, I realized a third reason to love these panels – trellising.

For several years, I had been using pre-made string trellis systems. Maybe you’ve used those? They work, but they’re a hassle to use.

There’s no shortage of trellis options to buy or DIY, but none of them are very efficient to set up. None but the livestock panel, that is.

I stand a panel on its side and lean it in toward the center of my bed (although you could just as easily prop one against a wall or fence). I lean a second panel from the other side to meet in at the top and form a sort of teepee.


livestock panel trellis

When placed vertically in the garden, livestock panels make a perfect trellis for vining plants. I lean two panels together to form a sort of teepee.


I secure the top with zip ties, so this design takes just a few minutes to set up. The sidewall of my raised beds can hold the bottom in place, but if that’s not an option for you, another beautiful benefit of livestock panels is that you can cut them to create soil spikes.

By cutting the crossbar of each grid square, you end up with a metal spike that can be driven into the soil easily. The evenly spaced spikes are sturdy, and you can make them as long as you need – depending on how many crossbars deep you cut.

If you prefer to spike the bottom of your trellis into the soil, cut the crossbars all along the side which will meet the soil surface. Drive the spike into the ground and lean the trellis into the bed center or against another vertical surface. That’s what I’ve been doing in recent years, and I love how sturdy it is.

Unlike a lot of traditional trellis options, the livestock panels are really easy to dismantle at the end of the season, and they stack and store through the winter without taking up much space. They can even be stored outdoors in harsh conditions – thanks to the galvanized metal construction.

The panels have worked so well for me, that I don’t trellis my peas, beans, cucumbers – anything – with anything other than livestock panels.


Joe Lamp'l Ultimate Tomato Cage

My ultimate tomato cages were the final answer to my tomato support problems. They are inexpensive, easy to make, tall and strong enough, durable, and they store beautifully during the off season. Just as importantly in the GardenFarm – they look sharp too.


My Ultimate Tomato Cage

The following spring brought the discovery of my favorite use for livestock panels – my Ultimate Tomato Cage.

I love growing tomatoes. I’ve been growing them for years and have tried just about every option for plant support out there.

The flimsy store-bought options flop over in no time, and they are way to short for the indeterminate heirloom varieties I enjoy most. I’ve also used bamboo teepees, which didn’t provide much support for fruit-laden branches.

Cages made from concrete wire can work, but they are a hassle to store over winter. Another issue is that they aren’t very attractive.

My garden is the set of my television show, Growing a Greener World®. So, it has to look good all the time. That spring, I realized that the livestock panels made such an attractive and sturdy trellis that they were a natural material for a great tomato cage too.



bending livestock panel

Stand on a 2″x6″ piece of lumber (or similar) to anchor the panel while you bend the wire along a length.


I calculated the most efficient size I could cut from a full panel and settled on cages which were 18” wide and 5’ high (once inserted into the bed). The basic directions would work to create a cage of any size, but for me, 5’x18” is the sweet spot. It’s enough room to contain and support my bushy tomatoes and support all their fruit, while still allowing good air circulation and light.

Although indeterminate tomatoes will grow far beyond 5’ tall, I enjoy working with that height most and sometimes top the plants if they get much higher anyway.

Out of one livestock panel, I cut two 75”hx36”w pieces. I bend each piece at a 90 degree angle along the length, using a two-by-six board for leverage. When I put the two bent pieces around the tomato plant, they form a square cage. The cages are so sturdy on their own that I no longer bother to secure them with zip ties. That’s largely because I spike the bottom of each piece 16” to secure it into the ground. The whole process takes twenty minutes or less.

That size leaves me with two leftover pieces from the original panel – which I form in the same way to make shorter, perfectly-sized cages for peppers or eggplants too.

The cages look so good and work so well, that I love them as much today as I did when I first made them seven years ago.

Does $22 (the cost of the livestock panel) sound expensive for one tomato cage? Well, consider that each cage will last for years. They never rust, support your tomatoes like a dream, and they don’t take up much space to store in the offseason. You won’t find any other tomato cage which can compete – for any price.

I store mine outdoors and, after all these years of use, they still don’t show any sign of wear. I expect to get at least 20 years or so of use out of each cage.


Shade cloth over seedlings

I placed a section of tomato cage with a covering of shade cloth over these seedlings to protect them from the intense sunlight as they harden off in the garden.


Even More Bang for Your Buck

Here’s application number five: In early spring, I use each half of the tomato cages as a shade house for seedlings.

I lay the section over the seedlings to create a teepee or tent, and place shade cloth or reemay floating row cover over the section. Unlike hoops which have to be placed one-at-a-time over the area, my tomato cage panels cover a span of nearly 7’ span instantly, and the grid provides sturdy support to protect the plants underneath.

Surviving a Storm

A few years ago, I had just planted my fall garden when the remnants of a hurricane shifted paths and headed straight for the GardenFarm. Atlanta-area residents had just one day to prepare for the impact of the storm.

My raised bed garden is surrounded by tall trees, so I knew that falling debris – and lots of it – was inevitable. Fortunately, I realized my tomato cage sections would work as a guard, and I placed them over the young plants as a metal teepee or tent.

The next morning, the garden was a mess. Twigs, branches and other flying debris littered the garden area, but the strength and closely-spaced grid of the livestock panel sections kept all of my plants safe and free of damage.


seedlings at the GardenFarm

Here are my tomato cages placed over the top of my fall vegetables in preparation for a storm coming through. The hump of the bend in the sections – and the strength of the galvanized wire – protected all my plants against the branches and other debris which blew through and onto the garden.


Putting a Bow On It

This year, I’ll use livestock panels in a brand new way. I’m taking a cue from my friend and fellow gardener, Susan Mulvihill, and using them to create pole bean arches.

I’ll stand the length of a full-size panel along the edge of one of my raised beds and bow it over into an upside down U-shape, with the other side along the edge of a separate raised bed. My pole beans will grow up along this arch over my garden walkway to add a beautiful new dimension to my garden this season.

Here’s the best bonus about the archway trellis: The pole beans will hang down from the panel to make harvesting a pure pleasure. Not to mention, I’ll be able to stand in the shade of the pole bean foliage while I’m picking the crop. Harvesting in shade during the heat of an Atlanta mid-summer afternoon will be quite a treat.


garden arbor

My livestock panel arbor is inspired by my friend Susan Mulvihill. What’s not to love about this elegant garden addition? (photo: courtesy Susan Mulvihill)


Loving the Leftovers

Depending on how you opt to cut and use livestock panel in your garden, odds are good that you will have some smaller, leftover pieces. I always do, and I find plenty of uses for those odds and ends too.

I have several 4’x4’ pieces remaining from tomato cage projects, which I now use as what I like to refer to as “quick corrals.” Those corrals are designed to save plants from the browsing of my neighborhood deer population.

At various times during the year, I have plants still in containers as they wait until I have time to get them into the ground. As a preventative measure against deer damage, I gather the plants into a group and surround them within a circle of the 4’x4’ sections of livestock panels. I use zip ties to secure the panels together, and I keep the corral perimeter far enough away from the plants, that passing deer can’t reach the foliage.

The livestock material is sturdy enough that the corral stands up on its own, so I don’t need to spike the sections into the ground. When I’m ready to plant, I cut the zip ties and dismantle and store the sections to await their next job.


protecting container plants

I was able to corral this group of containerized plants in just a few minutes using small sections of livestock panel and zip ties.


The Little Pleasures

Those extra pieces of livestock panel also work well for protecting in-ground beds.

This season, I added mounded beds to my garden area. I sowed the mounds with flower seeds to bring more color and support pollinators, but I needed a way to keep the scratching and digging pests out while the flowers germinated and established.

The odds-and-ends of livestock panel I’ve kept are perfect protection.

After I sowed seeds, I laid the small, flat pieces over the mounded beds. The cats and chickens weren’t able to scratch around the metal grid, so my flowers have sprouted and matured to the point that they can hold their own.

Within the next few days, I’ll be removing the panel protection and storing them away for whatever might come next.


protecting seedlings

I added mounded beds along my garden fence (the wire mesh in the background is fencing) and planted flower seeds to add color. By leaning small sections of livestock panel against the fence, I kept the chickens away from the germinating flowers. As these seedlings mature, I’ll take the protective covering down.


And Finally – Number 10

This one isn’t actually an application in the garden, but I had to include it here because it’s given me so much more enjoyment from the garden. It’s inspired by my trips to the Pacific Northwest during filming for Growing a Greener World.

After a long day in the garden, I love to sit on my deck and just enjoy looking at the beauty of the plants and fruit. Unfortunately, my deck railing – like many – was constructed of 2” slats as a guard between the railings. Those slats always obstructed the view of the garden.

While in the Seattle area, I noticed several decks constructed with goat panel in place of wood slats between deck railings, so I converted my railing to goat panels too.

The goat panel is a safe and strong guard, but it provides great visual clearance. So now, I can sit on my deck and enjoy the (nearly) clear view of my garden – along with a cold beer or glass of wine.


deck scene

The goat panel as a railing provides great visual clearance. It’s a sturdy, safe and nice-looking alternative to wood slats.


So are you feeling inspired? Hopefully, some of these applications solve a garden problem or two for you. I’m finding new uses for livestock and goat panels all the time, and someday, I might just have time to write that book on the subject. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Is there a common material that you have put to multiple uses in your garden? I’d love to hear about your creative ideas in the Comment section below, and no doubt, you’ll be inspiring other gardeners too.

Links & Resources

joegardener Video: How to Make a Planting Board: The Perfect Guide for Evenly Spacing Seeds and Plants

joegardenerTV YouTube: How to Make the Ultimate Tomato Cage

joegardener Ultimate Tomato Cage Blog Post and Step-by-Step Instructions

joegardenerTV YouTube: How to Top Tomatoes

joegardener Newsletter

joegardener Facebook

joegardener Facebook Group

joegardener Instagram

joegardenerTV YouTube

joegardener Twitter

Growing a Greener World®


Tractor Supply Company

Rain Bird®– Podcast episode sponsor and Brand Partner of

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs – Podcast episode sponsor and Brand Partner of


About Joe Lamp'l

Joe Lamp’l is the creator and “joe” behind joe gardener®. His lifetime passion and devotion to all things horticulture has led him to a long-time career as one of the country’s most recognized and trusted personalities in organic gardening and sustainability. That is most evident in his role as host and creator of Emmy Award-winning Growing a Greener World®, a national green-living lifestyle series on PBS currently broadcasting in its tenth season. When he’s not working in his large, raised bed vegetable garden, he’s likely planting or digging something up, or spending time with his family on their organic farm just north of Atlanta, GA.

0 Responses to “106-Livestock Panels: Top 10 Uses in the Garden for This Versatile Material”

  • Denise says:

    Loved this! I’m using panel walls for peas and tomatoes. Replacing my crappy wire arches next year with panels. But u really mentioned some applications I’d never thought of! ❤️????????❤️ ( my podcast played reallllyyyy sloooooowwwlly – anybody else?)

  • KaleKween says:

    My podcast played just fine.. I agree, so many good ideas! I’m using them this year. This is the second place I’ve heard cattle panel recommended for the garden

  • Forrest Jones says:

    Joe, they have been on my list to get since the first time you showed them. I am thinking of using them for a structure for my blueberry temple and draping the netting over the framework. In the mean time I have re purposed some flat concrete wire reinforcement panels for similar uses. To protect my seed beds from song birds, crows, chipmunks and the pounding rain and hail storms we have been getting lately, I draped screening material over the elevated panels, works great. If listeners don’t have easy access to a truck, they can ask someone at Tractor Supply to cut them down to fit in an SUV or on a roof rack. For some reason I am visualizing you using them for an attractive 8 foot high deer fence if you ever get around to that project. Correct me if I’m wrong. Great podcast Joe, great tips.Forrest Jones
    Nanty Glo, Pa

  • Joe Lamp'l says:

    Great reminder Forrest about cutting those panels down on site vs. trying to get the entire 16 ft. panels into your vehicle! And you are correct sir about my deer fence (or lack of it at the moment). Thanks for your faithful contributions to the conversations.

  • Sumaya says:

    Hi Joe! Regarding growing indeterminate tomatoes using panels, are there any drawbacks to just growing them up a vertical flat livestock panel rather than caging it in?

  • Joe Lamp'l says:

    No, other than how you keep them in control as they grow up. You will likely be cutting back a lot of the additional branching since you won’t have a way to support it. But it’s doable for sure.

  • Keller Adcock says:

    Hi Joe! I was wondering if the archway trellis would also work for cucumbers? I’m new to gardening and have a million questions… I’m building some raised beds and think this would make a good vertical element for my garden but I’m not sure if it will work for cucumbers. I’m definitely building some tomato cages in the spring! Thanks for all of your great teaching. It it really helping me have success this year.

  • Joe Lamp'l says:

    Hi Keller and thank you. And yes! I think the archway trellis would be great for the cucumbers! Actually even better than for beans. Reaching into a cucumber plant to harvest is no fun. The leaves are prickly and my arms always get scratched. Being able to reach up into the trellis to harvest cucumbers hanging down for the picking is brilliant! Love the idea and thanks for asking!

  • Denise says:

    I found a setting that changes speed and I guess my thumb hit it! Prob solved!

  • Charla @ Shiloh Farm Homestead says:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.c… I use them every way you’ve mentioned in the article, we did use the 34″ high hog panels for our deck railing and capped it with cedar – love the look. I never worry about my seedlings being dislodged by critters large or small, simply laying a panel over the seedlings or planted rows until the plants are standing strong is all it takes.

  • Kiwi says:

    If you were to bend one in half, do you think you could make an angle smaller than 90 degrees? Like maybe 45? I’m thinking about bending one to make an 8′ on each side trellis for pole beans; maybe use tent pegs to anchor it.

  • Joe Lamp'l says:

    The panels are very easy to work with for bending so I don’t see why that would be a problem. I like using a board pushed up against one of the ribs of the panel as leverage. Standing on the board and pulling up to the desired angle should be very easy that way.

  • Joe Lamp'l says:

    Hi, Charla. I just now waw this. Nice looking garden and sounds like we are both making the most of our panels. I too use them on my deck and I love the look! So much better than those 2×2 treated wood things! Thanks for sharing this here.

  • Kiwi says:

    Thanks so much! It was hard to tell from your photo whether 90 degrees might be the limit of its flexibility.

  • David Vernaglia says:

    Joe!Long time listener to your EXCELLENT podcast! After the deer ate almost all of my green tomatoes this dry, hot, New England Summer (I’m in RI), I’ve been contemplating biting the bullet and building these excellent tomato cages. The big question is, however, do these cages protect the tomatoes from deer? The openings are kind of large and I could imagine a deer sticking its nose fairly far into a cage in search of a tasty morsel (like tiny green tomatoes or even nice ripe ones). What has your experience been with deer damage to plants inside cattle panel cages since you’ve started using them? Thanks in advance, and keep up the great work! You’re a treasure to the gardening world!–D

  • Joe Lamp'l says:

    Hi David. Thanks very much for nice words about the podcast.
    Unfortunately, the cattle panel won’t stop those deer! If they can get their snout in there, and they can (the squares are about 5.25 inches), they’ll get your tomatoes. I wish I had better news for you.
    This has not been an issue for me though as the deer don’t get into my garden, fortunately. Someday I hope to invent the worlds best deer protection, and retire some place tranquil and garden in a pest and disease-free environment for the rest of my days! If only…but a guy can dream, right?

  • David Vernaglia says:

    A guy certainly can dream! Thanks for the input, Joe! My thought is to follow your design and add in a second layer of chicken wire. ($55 for 60″x50’x1″ mesh; enough for 12 cages). I’d fasten the chicken wire to the cattle panel with 24 gauge galvanized wire ($5 for 100′). If I can get a cattle panel for about $24 each (price near me at Tractor Supply), this will result in a per cage cost of about $30. Pricey, but it will last forever and keep out the damn deer. Building a deer fence is not an option for me due to the shape and lay of my land, so… Kinda pricey but once and done! Thoughts? Will the 1″ mesh constrict the tomatoes or will there be enough room in the cage for healthy growth?

  • Joe Lamp'l says:

    Deer won’t be able to get to your plants within chicken wire but wonder about access into the plants for maintaining them and harvest of course. Also, your plants are going to want to grow outside of the cages if you don’t keep up with the suckers. Will you be able to create an easy way to get past the chicken wire for maintenance? If so, you would solve your deer issues.

  • Kylene German says:

    Hi Joe,
    A quick question! Looking at your arch trellis idea. Can you tell me how wide the base opening is (aka how close you can bend the two ends together without adding too much tension? Id love to do this but want to make sure my bed spacing is appropriate! Thank you!

  • Gwendy says:

    Hi Joe,
    I’m excited to try goat panels for arch trellising! My problem is I can’t figure out how to get some. We have a pickup, but 16’ panels aren’t going to fit. Is there a place you know of that delivers? We are in Vermont. Googling hasn’t helped much. I’m hoping there’s some farm supply store that ships that I’m just not aware of.

  • Joe Lamp'l says:

    Hi, Gwendly. Those panels DO fit in a pickup. That’s how I get all mine home. Just get one person on each end and walk them into the truck, they’ll stand up in the bed with the center of the panel against the center of your back windshield. You can load all you need in one trip. I usually strap them in but they’re not going anywhere. Super easy!

  • Joe Lamp'l says:

    Hi, Kylene. I’m sorry I’m just now seeing this. You can bend the panels as close together as you want. They are very flexible so whatever you need to do will be fine.

  • Gwendy says:

    Thanks for the quick response! Are you saying to load them so they slant up over the roof of the cab?

  • Robert Fcebk Mckee says:

    I love this idea.. But is the galvanized coating lead free (googled and I can’t find anything.. I’m asking because when I was a kid I was told to wash my hands after handling galvanized metal). HOPEFULLY, vertical cucumbers next spring!

• Leave a Comment •

Get my (FREE!) eBook
5 Steps to Your Best Garden Ever:
Why What You Do Now Matters Most!

By joining my list, you’ll also get weekly access to my gardening resource guides, eBooks, and more!

•Are you a joe gardener?•

Use the hashtag #iamajoegardener to let us know!