Step One in Being A Good Neighbor; Strong Fences

Published on Wed, 07/03/2019 - 8:54am

 Step One in Being A Good Neighbor; Strong Fences

 By Michael Cox

 The cows are out!” Is there any other sentence in the world that evokes such an immediate reaction of shock, bewilderment, fear, frustration and panic in cattle-owners than the news that their livestock are no longer where they are supposed to be? Strong fences, properly and timely repaired, can keep livestock under control, neighbors content and possibly add years onto one’s life expectancy by reducing stress and panic attacks.  Fortunately, there are several tools and tricks that can help making fence repair less of a burdensome chore.

Wire tension
Barbed wire was key to taming the Great Plains in the late 1800s and today it’s proving just as useful at taming modern day livestock. The ‘Texas Fence Fixer’ is one of many hand held tools designed to tension barbed wire. The tool is easy to use and lightweight. As seen in image 1, the tool has a clamp on each handle, which grabs onto the barbed wire. When the two arms are pulled together to tighten the wire, the chain can be attached to hold the desired tension. An additional short length of wire can then be tied to the main-line, either side of the tool to maintain the tension after the tool is removed. Maintaining tight fences not only improves the appearance of the ranch, but livestock are less likely to ‘test’ a weak spot in the fence-line if it looks visually taut.

Post-drivers or post-pounders, come in a variety of shapes and sizes from hand-held to tractor mounted hydraulic drivers. Post-drivers are an essential part of any successful ranch. The aptly named, ‘Man Saver Post Driver’ from Rohrer Manufacturing as seen in Fig 2, is one of many pneumatic post drivers available on the market. Hand-held pneumatic post drivers are available in a variety of sizes to suit different sized posts and soil types. Pneumatic drivers are simply attached to an air compressor and work just like a tractor mounted driver – with a weight hammering the post into the ground. For ranches without a compressor on their farm truck, gas powered drivers can be a more practical option and offer great accessibility to rough terrain.
Metal, concrete and wooden fence posts are widespread across the nation and depending on quality, offer excellent longevity. Modern fiberglass posts however offer lifetime longevity and are pretty much indestructible. Fiberglass is proving a fantastic material for fence posts as it is strong, lightweight, acts as an insulator for electric current and is somewhat flexible. The flexibility of fiberglass posts is an interesting feature of the material – as it allows it to bend to an occasional force such as being hit with an irrigation pivot wheel and not snap. Fiberglass posts are typically manufactured in solid form. A small hole can be drilled in the post at the desired height and a clip used to attach a strand of wire to the post, as seen in Fig 3. Fiberglass posts are excellent for straight-line fences; however, they are generally not used as corner posts as they do not have enough rigidity to hold tension on a long line of wire.

Electric current
For electric fencing, grounding rods are often overlooked in their importance to the system. Correct grounding is the make-or-break of a strong shock in the fence. The number and depth of grounding rods is important, generally 3 feet of rod per joule of power in the charger is optimum. Spacing rods several feet apart and locating them in wet, deep soil will give the best grounding of the fence. Rods can be connected using galvanized wire. Insulated galvanized wire can also be very useful in carrying current underground at gate openings. Underground connections can be easily installed by digging a trench between the gate posts. Some ranchers will run the insulated wire through a 0.5 inch rubber hose to further prolong the lifespan of the insulated cable; protecting it from getting cut or snapped against stones in high-traffic gate areas.  
Maintaining electric power across creeks can be challenging. In times of high water, the electric strand of wire may be washed away if too low, yet in times when creeks run dry, cattle can easily walk underneath the wire if it’s too high. Flood gates can also prove challenging as they can trap debris during high water and drag the entire section of fence downstream during flash flood events. A novel way to keep livestock out of creeks in both high and low water is to hang lengths of light metal chain to the strand of electric wire, spaced every foot apart. The chains will ‘flow’ safely in times of high water, while carry shock in times of low water. Loss of shock during flash flooding is often inevitable, but avoiding the fence being dragged downstream is certainly an advantage of using the chain method.