Friday, August 4, 2017

One of the challenges

There are a lot of challenges when it comes to building fence.

At a glance, a barbed wire pasture fence might appear to be a relatively permanent structure, something that, once installed, is a finished project requiring little if any upkeep and maintenance.

Those of you who've visited this blog over the years probably understand that there's a good bit of maintenance and upkeep required to keep the cows in.

What it comes down to is this, most ranch fences are dynamic structures living in a dynamic world.

We could certainly build more permanent (ish) fences, like big, tall chain link structures. We don't, though, and for a couple of reasons. One is expense -- such a fence would bankrupt the operation. We're a pretty small ranch, and even we have many, many miles of fence.

As it turns out, the typical post and multiple strand barbed wire fence is considerably less expensive.

Another reason is that nature's dynamism is always worrying at fences and trying to bring them down. Big, tall, permanent (ish) fences are no exception, and in many ways are more vulnerable. A pile of tumbleweeds and 60 mph winds will lay a chain link  fence down in short order. It'll happen to barbed wire, too, but a barbed wire fence is quicker, easier, and less expensive to repair.

Yesterday I rebuilt a short stretch of perimeter fence on the east side of the south unit along County Road 39. This is a tricky stretch. Can you guess why?

It doesn't happen often, perhaps every five years, but when heavy rain falls to the southwest the draw that runs through this pasture fills with water. At least initially, and often for a dozen hours or more, rainfall runoff flows through the pasture like a raging torrent. It usually washes out the road. And the fence? Lasts about 30 seconds.

I have some video of the draw running but I can't find it this morning. So here are a couple of stills from a while back. 2013 I think.

Ever since the last draw flow I've been patching. It works for a while, but eventually you have to tear it out and rebuild, which is what I did yesterday.

It was a good bit of work but the weather was cool and overcast. Only took about eight hours.

I'm a little pi$$ed at yewtoobe for changing up the embed interface. Don't have time this morning to sort it out. Maybe later. In the mean time you can full screen the videos. If you want to.

The soil down in the draw is clingy, clayey, silt, and it's a real pain to work with. It's either hard like concrete or shovel-clinging sticky. It was probably the best combination you could hope for yesterday, not too dry and not too wet, but still a challenge. Ah well, that's life in the real world.

Okay, off to work.


  1. Pretty country, makes you work hard for your living doesn't it? Still and all, it's worth it in the long run. (I had steak for dinner last night. [BIG GRIN])

    I don't use the built-in interface Blogger thingee for pictures and video anymore, it's unreliable and they fiddle with it far too often (it's what the folks at Google do, can't say I blame them but hey, if it ain't broke, don't "enhance" it.)

    I use html to put in the pics and the vids, more flexibility and they'll still be there in a couple of years. (I've gone back to old posts and found videos gone, they're still there in YouTube, just the Blogger interface changed and hosed things up.)


    1. Well, not that hard. Not like the ranching Evertsons that came before me!

      Steak grin. I don't think about consumers as much as I should, but it's nice to be a part of making folks grin.

      I should try to figure out that html stuff. How hard could it be?

  2. Do you have a steel post driver?

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. I do. It's the Armstrong model; weighs about 20 lbs. Does a good job so long as it's operated correctly.

    2. Yep, that's the model I had in mind. I've operated one a time or two. Good for building biceps and ruining backs.


  3. Notice you use four wires, as most operators do. Do you have a specific spacing between strands? My father and his father in law had big arguments over this. Grandpa was a 6" off the ground on the bottom strand while my Dad held out for 10" off the ground. I didn't take a position as I was going to build it whatever way they wanted anyway.

    You seem to leave enough room under the bottom strand for the Pronghorn to crawl under.

    1. I didn't always leave room at the bottom but I've learned over the years that it helps in many ways. A wire close to the ground doesn't help keep cattle in any better, but it will collect a lot more debris which air and water and snow can push against with predictable results. Leaving 12-18 inches open on bottom helps a lot, and as you point out, makes life easier for the Pronghorn. When things are easier for them, they tend to be easier for me!

  4. Afriend of mine asked me if I would take Dorothy,( my John Deere utility tractor ), and mow down by the creek on his property, as it had been a rainy spring, and the grass was getting out of conrol. I wish he had told me the soil under the grass was muck. Dorothy got stuck hub deep, and so did the Chevy 4X4 oickup that went in after her. They were both eventually rescued by a 4X4 tractor. Muck is slippery stuff!

    1. You only have to do that a couple of times before you get real picky where you drive your tractor. There's a reason animals come with legs and not wheels.

  5. Several of the farms around here have their beef in fields that have single strand electric fence. And it seems to work. Although most of the fields are 40 acres or under, they rotate the herd from field to field to eat or bale.
    Except for the couple of bison farms, they have high and strong fencing. Talking to one that raise's bison, he says that the strong fence is just a reminder to the animals as if they really wanted out they would go right through as if the fence was not there.

    1. We've used electric and had good results. Usually it's been as a temporary cross fence. There are a few things that make it less than ideal for our operation. One of those is Pronghorn, which go under the wire and pop off the insulators. The wire then grounds out and doesn't carry a shock. When it gets very dry here the ground circuit can be very weak or even absent, so again, no shock. It's also tricky to get reliable electricity. Power goes out or cords come unplugged, batteries fail over time and have to be rotated, and solar chargers seldom work as advertised. At the end of the day electric is less effective and takes more labor. We've got miles and miles of fence though.

      In some ways cattle are the same as buffalo. The fence will hardly slow them down if they decide to go through. It really is just a reminder.