Frank J. Buchman

Cowboy • Horseman • Writer

Constant Task Maintaining Fences

“Fence is essential for keeping livestock, pets, and sometimes even children out of trouble and where they’re supposed to be.”

Days of open range are long gone when cattle grazed at random going from one location to another without boundary.

There was major disgruntlement between landowners and cattlemen when fences were constructed to keep livestock in their specified place.

Barbed wire was used for building many fences and is still the most common material for keeping livestock confined.

Interesting evaluating early day fences constructed out of native limestone. Remains of those rock fences still exist although likely none can safely be used to keep livestock in. Difficult to imagine the arduous work required to build and maintain those layered rock fences.

Of course, fences for centuries have been built using various other materials with wood probably the most recurrent.

Regardless of how well a barbed wire fence is built, there seems to be unending maintenance. One large rancher contended that all barbed wire fences must be rebuilt on a regular basis. He felt that fence replacement should be done on a certain footage half mile, more-or-less, every year.

Having constructed lots of fences during this lifetime, most of them were not done very well. There is a wide variation in the quality of new barbed wire fences depending on who’s doing the work.

Basic requirements are that the fence will keep livestock confined in a certain locale. A new fence should not need major repairs in a long time unless it is damaged by livestock or careless land managers.

Many of the ranch fences were “new” when property was acquired but they are now worn out and must be replaced. There are numerous loose, broken pieces of wire, and sagging wire splices throughout the fence.

Majority of the posts now are steel compared to earlier wooden posts, but everyone is leaning from grazing pressure. Osage orange (hedge) tree corner posts were formerly used for the best fences, but fence builders now often prefer steel corner posts. They are strong as hedge posts and will not burn during a pasture fire.

Fence construction today is demanding work and expensive, requiring definite skills and specialized modern-day equipment. It’s much more than wire, posts, shovel, hammer, pliers, and staples.

Reminded of the Proverb: “Good fences make good neighbors.”



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