Country Living Series

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fixing fences frugally

Our fences need fixing. Oh boy do they. It's been a constant battle to keep the damned cattle where they're supposed to be.

Right now our herd is split. The bull, steer, and cows/heifers without calves are in the woods. The cows who have calves are in the driveway so they don't get sucked down by the knee-deep mud the constant rain has produced. (It's only ankle-deep in the driveway.)

But those delineations are by no means perfect. The Brat Pack -- our term for the yearling calves -- long ago learned that fences are merely suggestions, not orders. Accordingly they move in and out virtually at will. Amazing how well a yearling can jump a fence when she has a mind to.

But having the animals moving between the woods and the driveway area is no big deal. The big deal comes when assorted animals go gamboling across our neighbors' properties, heedless of boundaries and happily kicking up their heels. Grrrr.

For the last month we've been patching and mending and doing whatever it takes to keep the beasties where they're supposed to be. When the bull got out after we'd fixed the lower fence, we found he'd bulldozed ("bull" is in that term for a reason!) his way under the fence. Grrrr.

So we went down and pounded in a couple extra T-posts...


...and even utilized whatever natural anchors were already in place.


With a fence line this superb, you wouldn't think even a chicken could slip through, right?


And apparently it worked, at least for the bull. He hasn't escaped since. But our Houdini-inspired Brat Pack still gets out. Every day. Sometimes twice a day.


"Is there a problem, officer?"


"Yeehaa!!! Whee! Can't catch us!"


Eventually they'd get nervous being so far away from the rest of the herd, and would docilely allow us to scoot them back home, the little turds. This was getting to be a twice-a-day occurrence. In a word, OLD.


So anyway, back to fences. The stretch along the road was merely four strands of barbed wire. Contrary to popular belief, barbed wire is functionally useless as a deterrent to a bunch of snotty adolescent cattle who want to raise a ruckus on someone else's land. What helps deter them is when you screw these twisty things called droppers or stays down through the strands of wire. The droppers hold the strands of wire rigidly in place so a recalcitrant cow can't push the strands apart.

But, naturally, droppers are expensive. And we'd need a couple hundred of them. Cha-ching!

So Don, ever frugal, did some research online and learned that a stout stick laced through the strands of barbing and then wired in place would serve the same function. That's one thing we have in abundance around here -- stout sticks!

So on a day the girls and I went into the city for music and gymnastics lessons, Don put on mud boots and gloves and gathered sticks. Then he started wiring the sticks through the strands of barbed wire. He got about halfway done -- an excellent job!

Except, of course, the Brat Pack just pushed through the part he hadn't yet done and went gamboling about on the neighbor's land. Grrrr.

Meanwhile the weather was disintegrating once more into endless days of endless rain, making outdoor work nasty and uncomfortable. But faithfully, twice a day, the four of us were out on our neighbor's property chasing the %$@#$% Brat Pack back inside the fences. We really needed to finish patching the road side. But the weather was so nasty...

So this afternoon while Don disappeared into the shop to work on some nesting boxes for the chicken coop, I gathered the girls and we snuck into the woods and gathered stout sticks, despite the rain. Loading them into a wheelbarrow along with wire and nippers, we completed the half of the road fence Don hadn't had a chance to finish. He didn't "catch" us until we were finished, hee hee. We got soaked and freezing cold, but it was worth it!


Tomorrow will be the test to see if the Brat Pack manages to slip through our efforts...

16 comments:

  1. This brings back memories, LOL....actually the droppers/stays can bend too, so maybe the sticks are a better option....I went thru this with our "hand me down goat," there wasn't a fence in the world she couldn't get thru.......What eventually solved the problem was some rebar wired to the strands, in between the posts - the rebar were leftovers from local construction jobs (meaning: freebies) and some had to be cut to length....but the nice part about that was it could also be cut so some would actually go into the ground as well as be high enough to weave between the strands (very helpful on the hilly areas)....

    It took all summer (mostly due to limited amounts of rebar at a time) but it was worth it....the following year the goat died of old age, but at least the fencing lived on.......the only thing I had to do to it after that was to file one that had a ragged top - so a horse we were "babysitting" wouldn't get hurt while scratching her neck on the top of the rebar......

    At least when yours gets loose, they aren't destroying the neighbors garden/alfalfa bales/flower beds/garbage cans........

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  2. Good luck! I hope you can keep them in! :)

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  3. HEY YALL TOP OT THE MORNIGN TO YA- WE HAVE A HOUDINI INSPIRED LAB/DANE.. WE KNOW THE AGAONY OF FENCE JUMPING,CLIMBING,OR TUNNELING.. AFTER ERECTING A 6 FOOT CEMENTED IN,- STEEL WIRE FENCE AND SHES STILL CLIMBING OVER WHEN SHE WANTS WE JUST GAVE UP INFORMED ALL THE NEIGHBORS THAT SHES NOT DANGEROUS UNLESS YOU CONSIDER BEING LICKED TO DEATH DANGER..SHES ALL BLACK AND DOES LOOK A BIT INTIMIDATING... SHES GOT TO THE POINT SHELL GO PLAY ABOUT 1/2 HOUR THEN COME TO THE GATE AND BARK TILL WE LET HER BACK IN... GOOD LUCK WITH THAT FENCING.. AND LOAD UP ON THE DOGGIE BISCUITS.....GLO

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  4. keeping my fingers crossed for you that it does the trick!
    I hate chasing animals when they get the itch to do some "traveling"

    Tina

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  5. I use wire between the strands - it still keeps the wires from spreading when the critter tries to separate them. Once your cattle get used to electric fences, they work great! New cattle though will attempt a number of breakthroughs with electric fences. A bull, if he has his mind to it, will defeat just about any fence.
    Another good fence is Osage orange trees. I have never had a critter get through a wind break/fence of those!

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  6. I hate what you are going through with this and really empathize. Some of our fences are 25 years old,saggy, and rusty, and some of the osage orange posts were put in by my great grandpa! We had some heifers get out and travel over a mile from home.

    Could you try one hot (electrified) wire on the inside of your barb wire? Maybe with a 4" extended insulator?

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  7. Normally hot wires would be a good idea. However we've had less than stellar success with them in the past. In order to put the wire low enough for the cattle to notice (remember, Dexter cows are small), the wires get shorted out by plants growing against them. Plus the deer are FOREVER getting tangled up and yanking the wires out. But I think - fingers crossed - our fence fix may be working.

    - Patrice

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  8. At some point might it make sense to get a cow pony to use in situations like you describe, and just in general work with cattle? I mean, you do have a small herd there. I hate seeing you hoofing it after cattle that are laughing at the sight of you chasing them.

    Bill Smith

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  9. That was a really nice gift to your husband, Patrice. Many wives would nag the man to do it, setting a negative example for their daughters also. You are showing them a great example that a good wife is a partner and should not be a blushing flower-princess, but a real woman and a help-meet. I admire you more every time I read something like this - you are a good example for all of us.
    Of note, here's an interesting way to preserve fresh eggs without refrigeration:
    http://homesteadgardenandpantry.com/agrarian-life/self-reliance/preserving-eggs-with-water-glass/
    teresa in maine

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  10. Good fences make good neighbors. Good neighbors build good fences. Let's hope you're solved this problem, now and for years to come.

    Anonymous Patriot
    USA

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  11. Bill's right about a cow pony, if you can ride at that level.
    ATVs are another widely used method of wrangling herds large and small.
    And I agree w/ teresa. Also, I saw a water glass thing a few weeks back. (h/t Granny Miller!) Good stuff to know.

    I've been thinking of running a few meat goats on our place, but in my heart I know want a milk cow.... posts like this really help remind me of how much work that would be. lol

    This post also gives me a perfect solution to a minor fence issue I have on my place involving barbed wire. Well done y'all!

    O/T: I saw Katie J. back in a recent comment. That was really good to see.

    Thanks Don and Patrice. This site is way cool.

    A.McSp

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  12. This reminds me of what we say in our house: If it needs repair and you aren't sure which way is the best, try the $2-fix first, if that doesn't work move on to the $10-fix and so on. We've saved a lot of time and $$$ by trying the cheapest method first.
    Andrea S

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  13. we have those goofy adolescentt brat packs here in n.e. mississippi too...our solution has been hog wire and australian shepherds. but even with that we still sometimes have one fella who likes to wander..usually into my flower beds or up the road to the highway. good luck!

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  14. Funny, we're mending our fence right now too...was supposed to be fixed by tomorrow for the new puppy. But we had a freak heatwave today and it was too hot (100+) to be out there in it. My hubby's out there now at 7:00 pm and still 85 degrees trying to get things done. No chasing livestock for us, but we don't want to lose the new baby either.

    Good luck Patrice!

    -Nina

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  15. I have been fighting fencing wars all summer. Here in Colorado you have to build a fence on your property to keep ranchers cattle out! You are right about the expense, I just spent more than 2K to do a 1/2 mile. that does not count labor. Most of our "Free Range" ranchers here are drugstore cowboys. They could not fix a fence if they tried. They dress up, talk the talk, but are a failure when it comes to doing real work. They just want the $$ to feed cattle contracted by some out of state rancher. Good luck with the fence.

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  16. I would have recommended vinyl or something but I'm not really sure how it measures up to pushing and prodding by cattle. Just by reading this post however I have a feeling that you have solved your problem. Else you'll really need help http://www.future-outdoors.com/index.php/product/fencing.

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