Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pounding Posts

Fencing is one of the essential tasks of a rancher.  Posts rot off, wire rusts, snowdrifts bury, cattle and wildlife break through.  There is always fence to fix.
The first big push of fencing is in June when the cattle are turned out to summer range.  Someone has to ride or drive around each field before the cattle are turned in to put in a few staple here, splice a wire there, and drive in a few wood posts.
I’m not a big fan of steel posts – they’re quick and easy and cheap and last forever, but they bend and they grip the wire so tightly that you can’t pull it through to tighten a section and the wire often breaks where it is clipped against the post.  I prefer wooden posts.  The 4” drivers I use are four times as strong as steel, so it takes half as many.  The wire can flex through the staples to absorb the shock when an animal hits it, and you can tighten the wire and stretch it for quite a ways up the line.  The downside is that you need a hydraulically driven pounder rather than just the simple man-powered capped length of pipe used for driving steel posts.

We had three sections of fence to rebuild this fall near the calving shed.  The first task is to set up the braces at each end.  We drove them where we could, and dug the holes by hand to set the posts where there were too many rocks to drive posts.  After the braces were set we could stretch up one wire for a guide, then drive along pounding the line posts.
With all the posts in the ground for these new stretches of fence, we can relax a little and get on with working cattle; we can come back and stretch up the wire anytime – even after the snow comes and the ground freezes.
Tomorrow it’s back to the cattle: a neighbor just called to tell me he had pushed some more of our cattle out of his summer range and back into ours.  We will head out ahorseback first thing in the morning to bring them down off the mountain, then get in the yearlings for their fall work of vaccinations and pregnancy testing.

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