Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fencing, Part One

Our first big summer project this year is rebuilding an electric fence that separates our creek bottom from the rest of a pasture. If left unfenced, the cattle hang on the creek bottom, overgrazing it, and not utilizing the grass in the rest of the pasture. They do this because the grass on the creek bottom is more lush and stays green longer, and it's easier for them to fill up in a small area - they find it very convenient.
This fence allows us to be better managers of our grass, and prevents the overgrazing and under grazing of different parts of our ranch. As I've mentioned before, efficiency is a big deal, and we want to utilize our available resources, grass in this case, in the best way possible across our entire ranch.
Upon completion, we will allow our cattle to graze the creek bottom early, when it greens up. Then we will move them off the creek bottom and allow that grass to grow untouched through the summer months, and then return back and graze it again in the fall.

The first part of this job was tearing out the old electric fence. A hired man built this fence several years ago, and didn't do the best job. We opted to start completely over with it, saving the two wires, pulling the wood posts and replacing them with fiberglass posts, and straightening it out.

This is what most of it looked like. The wood posts weren't set deep enough, and popped up. Several insulators were also missing, and without those an electric fence will short out, and become ineffective.
One advantage to using fiberglass posts is they eliminate the need for washers, as the wire won't short out when they touch fiberglass. One disadvantage is fiberglass gives awful slivers, and you don't want to grab a fiberglass post without your gloves on.

We used this tractor to pull the wood posts, and drill holes for our deadmen, which are a type of post designed to hold a fence down in a low spot without coming out of the ground.

After we had the wires off all the posts, someone would drive the tractor down the fenceline, and someone else (me) would walk along.

As the person walking along, I would form a half-hitch with the chain, and slide it over the post. Then the person in the tractor would pull it straight up, and out of the ground. We repeated this process on every post that hadn't come out the ground on its own, until they were all pulled.

We will recycle these posts in another fence on our place.

Then we used the same tractor to drill the deadmen holes, and set them. The top wire was strung to use as a guide, and keep our fence straight. A straight fence looks nicer and is easier to maintain, and my brother is especially good at making a fence straight.

Here is the wire, and the hole for the deadman.

To make a deadman out of a fiberglass post, my dad would drill a hole through the post near the bottom...

Then slide a washer onto the post, and insert a nail into the hole he drilled. Once in the hole, and covered with dirt, the washer will prevent the otherwise cylindrical post from coming out of the ground when the wire is pulled down and attached to it.

In high places the wire pushes down the posts, so they will stay in the ground on their own. These deadmen are only necessary in low spots, where the wire pulls up on posts instead of pushing down.

Once inserted into the hole, another person walks up the fenceline, and lines the post up with the wire and other posts.

Once everything is lined up, dirt is kicked back into the hole...

And this heavy, steel pole is used to tamp the dirt around the post, securing it into place. You have to alternate adding dirt to the hole, and tamping it, until the hole is filled. Then you add a little more dirt, and tap it down with your foot. If the amount of dirt in the drilled hole isn't level or above the ground around it, water can run in and erode the dirt out of the hole, basically taking you back to where you started.

Once all the old posts are tore out, the deadmen and corners set, the wires untangled, and the gates are rebuilt, you enter Part Two of the fence rebuilding process, which will be coming soon!

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