Blood, Sweat and Good Pasture Fence

If ever I won the lottery, I would most likely spend it on cattle fencing-not on cattle, but on fencing for the cattle. Each spring I get to improve our fence just a little or at least make maintenance a little easier.

Most people who own cattle think about them all the time. You worry about them or you worry about what they’re doing. In the summer, you worry about the seal created around your herd by your perimeter fence. When that seal breaks, it bleeds cattle. There’s an old phrase in the military that goes, “the more you sweat, the less you bleed.” In the case of cattle and fence, the sweat occurs when you install or maintain your fence.

This year, I found the gripple. The gripple is like a Chinese finger trap for fence wire in that whatever wire enters the gripple cannot come out the same way. If you enter a wire from each end of the gripple, it forms a connection that can take about 800 pounds of pull. It is so much easier that twisting wire or crimping sleeves around the wire. I believe the gripple was created in the United Kingdom and like so many cattle fence innovations, it originated from an area that pastures intensively. The United States started out with so much land that cattle fence didn’t become important until individual quarters of land were not owned by the same person. I believe this is the reason that we always look to the UK or New Zealand for innovative fencing products.

Age brings a little arthritis to often-used hands. I have always cut high-tensile wire with a regular linesman’s pliers but these cause pain after a few dozen cuts. For this reason, I purchased a special cutter made especially for heavy-gauge wire. The wire cutter is like a miniature bolt cutter and uses leverage to multiply the effort your hand exerts when you squeeze. They are easy to use and I can hold my work in place with one hand while I use the other to cut. I think pride is dangerous thing but I must say I am proud of these pliers.

In our pasture system, there are several systems that either prevent cattle movement or encourage it. The internal fences divide the pasture into 12 separate paddocks while water and shade is supplied within each paddock. The problem has always been that the shade and water were located too close together. I move two very large shade structures from paddock to paddock and they needed to move across each fenced paddock at the individual fence line’s midpoint. This spring, I cut a lane right across all of these paddocks and built two gates at each crossing so I could open or close off each paddock with a wire gate after moving the shade structure into fresh grass. What this does is create shade right in the middle of the paddock while leaving water at each end. This makes the cattle more comfortable, more productive and probably expresses my own humanity towards another of God’s creature. I wouldn’t give two cents for a cattle man who didn’t show some humanity to his or her cattle.

The cattle should arrive this week-end. I love cattle inside a fence as much as I hate cattle outside a fence. My success at cattle depends on the work and planning I do before they arrive. It is the sweat that prevents the blood-hopefully I’ve sweat enough the last few weeks.

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