Bekaert – the RIGHT fence, the FIRST time
Whether you install your own fencing or hire a company to do it for you, one thing is certain — it isn’t a task you want to have to redo every 5, 10, or even 15 years. It only makes common (and fiscal) sense to do it right the first time. When done correctly with the right materials, a high tensile fence can last as long as 50 years and is less maintenance than a traditional fence. In fact, you can build a longer-lasting high tensile fence for about half the price of a conventional low carbon fence. The folks from Bekaert recently discussed some of the basics of fencing with American Cattlemen. They also shared some of their best tips for picking the proper fencing materials for your needs and correctly installing them — and these folks definitely know what they are talking about.
In 1880, company founder Leo Leander Bekaert started a business making barbed wire. He then developed and patented his own star-shape “crowns” that could be woven in with the wire. Fast forward more than 130 years and Bekaert’s wide range of fencing products, including Gaucho® Barbed Wire and Field Fence as well as Solidlock® Fixed Knot Fence, is now providing innovative solutions for raising cattle and growing crops, as well as many other animal applications. Bekaert can be relied on to keep animals in — or out.
A century later, Bekaert continues to be an innovator in barbed wire. Barbed wire traditionally consists of two strands of wire twisted together with barbs placed at predetermined distances. However, the new standard used by Bekaert is the reverse twist. The reverse twist design, used in all of Bekaert’s high tensile barbed wire products, alternates the direction of the two wires at the barbs to reduce sagging and better hold the barbs in place. This in turn adds “memory” to your barb wire and results in less maintenance.
Curran Lehr, one of Bekaert’s Commercial Sales Manager, is passionate about fencing and believes the better educated a consumer is, the better they can do when deciding what fencing products and materials best suit their needs. He shared with us some of the basics of fencing wire every cattleman should know. Agricultural fencing wire is typically low carbon or high tensile. Low carbon wire is made from steel rod with a carbon content between 0.06-0.08%. “This kind of wire is relatively easy to work with but is prone to stretching and sagging, which can be especially problematic in areas which get snowfall,” shared Lehr. Low carbon can sag as much as 25% — which over a 330 foot roll of standard low carbon field fence is over 80 feet of elongated wire. On a 1,320 foot roll of low carbon barbed wire, that can be as much as 300 feet — which means more time spent re-tensioning, maintaining and keeping the fence up. High tensile is made with a higher carbon steel, and Bekaert is the pioneer of high tensile products. The carbon content of high tensile wire starts at 0.28%. This increased carbon content significantly increases the wire’s strength and reduces elongation.
“In a nutshell, this means you can use a smaller diameter high tensile wire in place of a thicker lower carbon one with just as much if not more longevity and strength,” said Lehr. “Properly installed, high tensile fences remain tight for years and require very little maintenance. The strength of high tensile is also much greater than low carbon.”
To suit every need, Bekaert makes a full range of fence products — from heavy-duty fencing for livestock, to a black-coated fencing that is a more attractive alternative to traditional chain link fencing in residential areas. The two types most appealing to cattlemen however are probably the high tensile smooth 12.5 gauge and the barb wire. The high tensile smooth is usually used for electric fences. This is also the most inexpensive type. The drawback is that it does require some maintenance. “Like any electric fence, you can’t let it get overgrown or it will lose its charge and then animals can escape,” said Lehr. Bekaert barbed wire comes in 12.5g, 14 (Cattleman®), 15.5g (Gaucho® Barbed Wire) and 18g. The 12.5 is standard low carbon barbed wire whereas the other three gauges are high tensile. Bekaert’s 14g barbed wire is the strongest barbed wire sold in the country today.
Bekaert barbed wire is not only a smart choice, it also gives back to the community. Bekaert has partnered with the National 4-H Council to help support local youth reach their fullest potential. (From June 1, 2014 – May 30, 2015, Bekaert will donate 1% of retail sales on their Gaucho® premium barbed wire to National 4-H Council with a minimum guaranteed donation of $25,000)
Once you decide on the right type of fence, it makes sense to protect that fence from the elements to make it last even longer. The five primary types of fence coating are Commercial, Class 1, Class 3, Bezinal® and Bezinal® + UV Protective Coating.
Commercial (also called regular galvanized) has zinc on the surface but there is no actual standard as to the coating thickness or weight. This is the type of fence you may find rust on in two years.
Class 1 is very popular in most farm stores. It is the lightest standardized type (with a set amount of zinc). Class 1 will typically last you 5-10 years.
Class 3 is the best zinc galvanized agricultural coating you can buy. It has about three times the amount of zinc coated onto the wire’s surface so lasts three times the life of Class 1. Bekaert is now even offering a 20-year limited guarantee on the Class 3. Class 3 is the standard coating on all Bekaert brand-name products. Bezinal,® which Bekaert is now offering a 30-year limited guarantee on, is a combination of zinc and aluminum which increases the resistance to corrosion greatly. The longest lasting coating available on the market today is Bezinal® with an added UV-resistant color coating. Bekaert is now offering a 40-year limited guarantee on this coating. Bekaert is the first company to offer limited guarantees on their fencing products which is an excellent benefit when considering which fencing products best suite your application. You can visit their website for more details on the guarantees.
Besides understanding the type of fencing and coating that will work best for your needs, it is also helpful to understand the different types of knots. A Solidlock® fixed knot fencing utilizes solid vertical stay wires. This increases the vertical strength of the fence and allows for posts to be spaced farther apart. The knot is a separate piece of wire tightly wrapped around the line wire and stay wire. Solidlock® fixed knot is very resistant to animal damage. All Solidlock® fences are backed by a 10-year limited guarantee.
“This is a larger knot, but also much stronger,” explained Lehr. “It’s great for cattle, as well as a deer and wild game. Once you learn to tie it, it installs very well, but there is a bit of a learning curve.” The “S” knot uses a separate piece of wire to attach the line wire to the solid stay wire. The “S” knot is smooth to the touch and strong enough to resist animal impact with extra vertical strength. “It is also smooth so if an animal rubs against it, it won’t be injured,” said Lehr.
A hinge joint knot is common in agricultural fencing. This type of knot is formed by wrapping the vertical stay wire pieces around the line wire at each intersection. According to Lehr, this design works well for most applications and can absorb most animal impact without damage. It is also the most economical choice. To help educate and learn from customers, Lehr holds installation workshops all over the country in conjunction with local Bekaert distributors and contractors. These sessions have two goals: to provide knowledge of the products and to share installation advice. “Installers already know what they are doing. What we do at our schools is share with them what we’ve found to be best practices. We also discuss materials and type of braces, and high tensile versus standard barbed wire,” Lehr shared.
“A good installer needs to know all the products on the market and their strengths and drawbacks, and the ideal application for each product,” said Lehr. The first and most important thing is to understand what the fence needs to accomplish. Does it need to be barbed wire? Smooth? Woven? Electrical? It is also important that the installer understands breaking strength and elongation issues. No one wants to spend the time and money to put up a fence that soon breaks or sags. An easy tip to remember is ‘with material selection, consistency is key.’ “All components need to have the same life expectancy as the fence. If your fence lasts 30 years, you don’t want accessories lasting just 10 years.” Another key element of the workshops is sharing efficiency ideas. “We’ll share a faster way to do a corner or staple; the best way to attach the fence to the post. We are always paying attention to new technologies on the market that will make life easier for fence installers.”
There are some things that people who haven’t worked with high tensile wire before need to be aware of though said Lehr.
“The drawback to high tensile is it will seem fairly stiff, if you haven’t worked with it before. There are a range of carbon grades in high tensile, so there will be different degrees of stiffness. Although it is harder to tie, the plus side is you get drastically more strength. Also a roll will be lighter than its low carbon counterpart, so it is much easier to handle.”
For example, with low carbon the strength of 12.5 gauge is about 450 lbs. With high tensile you can get 1500 pounds breaking strength out of same size wire, just by increasing the carbon content of the wire. The wires may look the same, but the strength is dramatically different.
“You want to understand high tensile installs differently from conventional fence. It won’t stretch and has a certain amount of “memory” to it. You should never leave a loose end unattended. When you cut it, keep control of both sides of the fence. It can wind up like a spring and recoil back. Whereas standard barbed requires over-tightening, high tensile does not require that and is actually not good for the fence. Just pull it as tight as you want it to be and then tie it or terminate the end.”
Lehr also recommends adjusting the tension manually — not using any motorized devices. In addition, he suggests that when you staple or fasten the wire that you don’t fasten it too tightly to the line post. Leave the staple so the wire can move a little. This way, if needed, the whole fence section can absorb the impact — which is good advice for all fences. Lehr’s best tip? “You can’t cut corners on high tensile products when it comes to the braces,” stressed Lehr. “Do everything else wrong, but if you get the braces right, then you will probably be okay.”
You are probably already using Bekaert products, even if you don’t yet use their fencing. From the steel cords in your truck’s tires to the bridge you drive over to get to town, to the guard rails on the side of the road, companies around the world trust Bekaert to provide them with steel. Unlike other companies, Bekaert makes all their US fencing products in America. They are a global technology leader in steel wire transformation and coatings. The Bekaert brand also provides steel, wire and mesh to numerous industries including automotive, telecommunications, construction, energy and utilities. Because of their ground-breaking research and development working with metals and coatings in these other fields, that technology has translated to a strength and quality in their fencing components that is second to none.
“We want to help everyone select the best product for your needs and make sure that it is installed properly. We want our customers to have the best quality product with the most efficient installation,” stated Lehr. So serious is
Bekaert about customer service that Lehr invites anyone with questions to reach out to him at Curran.Lehr@bekaert.com or at 404-414-4370.
Bekaert also has videos online to assist with the proper installation as well as tricks and tips of the trade. You can view them at fencing.bekaert.com. Helpful advice and videos are also available on their YouTube channel: