Drought Forcing Grazing Changes: Plan a Quick, New Fence System

Published on Mon, 06/28/2021 - 1:01pm

Drought Forcing Grazing Changes: Plan a Quick, New Fence System.

 Article provided by Bekaert Fencing.

 USDA’s June drought condition monitor paints a bleak forecast for cattle grazers west of the Mississippi.  As of the June 17, 2021 report, the entirety of four states was under drought conditions -- California, Oregon, Utah and Nevada. Nearly 90% of the western U.S. is experiencing some level of drought.

As if beef prices weren’t enough to keep cattle producers awake at night, now they’re faced with harsh grazing management realities with little to no rain to green up their livestock’s food source.

Get the Most Out of Your Forage
Keith Taylor, Bekaert Fence Pro, has been working with livestock producers west of the Mississippi for years. Right now, he’s hearing from his customers and distributors that grazing efficiency is critical for
operational success.

“We have to graze what we have more efficiently,” said Taylor, echoing producers’ plans and recent studies promoting adaptive and regenerative rotational grazing.

“Folks are taking 600 or 700-acre sections and breaking them into 200-acre lots for grazing these lots more efficiently.  They’re having to do it quickly as their forecasts lack precipitation,” said Taylor. “Within a couple of days, or at most a few weeks, ranchers are having to get those cows and calves into smaller sections for longer periods of time to ensure they’re getting the most out of the forage that’s available without wasting it.”

The Switch to Rotational Grazing Fencing
A true, full-time rotational grazing management system switch entails permanent paddocks.  However, installing miles of woven wire and braces for a permanent fence to combat drought conditions is a time-consuming and expensive prospect, said Taylor.  The 30-year Fence Pro veteran has some tips for producers to quickly adapt to drought conditions and re-size their grazing areas.

Barbed Wire & Braces
For producers in especially arid areas like Wyoming, New Mexico and beyond, the long-range forecasts for drought may mean many months of moving cattle from lot to lot to manage forage.

“If drought conditions persist, we recommend producers go with a  3 or 4-strand high-tensile barbed wire fence with pipe bracing,” said Taylor. “This Bekaert Gaucho® 15.5ga barbed wire will cost a rancher less per foot than some of the professional line products offered by Bekaert. Gaucho® is still a great long-lasting product just a little lighter and more cost-efficient.”

Due to supply chain issues and high demand post-COVID, the materials for wood braces are tough to come by and often cost-prohibitive. Taylor noted that in a drought, it’s also often harder to install wooden posts. “Especially if you’re driving into dry sand and clay, that wood post just won’t go anywhere.”

Avoiding a Wildfire in Your Build
Taylor recommends re-purposing metal pipe for bracing to minimize the financial impact.  “But pipe is still cheaper than wood posts right now,” he notes.

Taylor warns that the usual process for using a welding torch to cut pipe is out of the question in a drought. “The last thing we want to do is bring an ignition source out into a dryland area to install fence braces for our new grazing plan,” said Taylor.

He recommends hand tools such as a Sawzall or reciprocating saw to avoid sparks as you cut the correct lengths for your braces. (Learn more about the right brace for the right fence on Bekaert’s website at https://fencing.bekaert.com/).

Fence Bullet Alleviates Need for Brace Welds
To create your brace, Taylor recommends the new Fence Bullet Pipe Brace Kits. These kits are easy-to-use steel pipe brace connectors used to build fence braces quickly and easily, even in remote areas.

“No welding is needed. No fire risk and you can easily install in remote areas because you don’t have so many supplies to haul,”
notes Taylor.

After you set your brace pipes, you can quickly install a brace in under five minutes. The Fence Bullet lineup includes H style, N style, HN styles, all in two sizes, 2 3/8” and 2 7/8”.

Temporary Electric Fence and Movable Posts

Taylor says the fastest and most economical way to split grazing areas is a temporary electric fence.

“This involves one hot wire and one grounded wire,” said Taylor. He notes this is not recommended as a physical barrier but as a mental one so producers won’t want to push the headcount pressure or leave too many cows in this space for too long.

“If a cow touches her nose to an electric fence and remembers it’s hot, she’ll avoid it. But if you get a group pushing on that fence, they’ll go through it pretty easily,” warns Taylor.

For grazing a specific area for several weeks, up to a few months, he recommends producers reduce their financial investment by using sweat equity to re-purpose materials. “Using temporary posts, we can re-use insulators and a 14 gauge Electric Fence Wire from Bekaert. Just pick up and move your fence to the next pasture as you move your cows,” recommends Taylor. Bekaert offers this low-carbon galvanized wire in . mile or mile spools.

Making a Plan for Your New Grazing Plan
If you’re watching the forecast on your smartphone, navigate over the Bekaert Fence website for additional tips and information for making a new grazing plan.  The site includes a fence supply calculator where you can map out your new fence lines and estimate your supply costs.  Find the calculator online at https://fencing.bekaert.com/en/fencing-calculator

Taylor and the Bekaert Fence Pros are available to answer questions about design, materials lists and more. Regardless of the size of your projects, submit questions at https://fencing.bekaert.com/contact and a member of The Bekaert Fence Pro team will respond within 24 hours.