FARMING MATTERS: Fencing to get ready for turn out of cattle

Copyright Heather Jan Brunt
Copyright Heather Jan Brunt

Every day motorists and pedestrians drive and walk by miles and miles of fields, bordered in most cases by some kind of fencing.

But how many consider the work entailed in maintaining that fencing?

It’s an ongoing and expensive job for all farmers to keep their land securely fenced, especially if they have livestock.

Field boundaries can take many forms – some have hedges and in many areas of the country stone walls abound. Fencing includes wooden or metal post and rail, stock fencing (usually consisting of mesh netting along the bottom with barbed wire along the top), electric or a mixture of all of these things.

Fencing maintenance can take place throughout the year although traditionally it is mostly dealt with during the winter months. In our case this isn’t possible because our land is too wet to take heavy machinery at that time of year, so it’s usually a race against time to get the job done in late spring prior to the cattle being let out for the summer.

These days we use a post driver attached to the tractor or loader to assist with fencing jobs, but in the past it was a much more labour intensive job. A large sledgehammer made of wood or rubber was used to knock posts into the ground or a steel post rammer was operated by one or two men. This is a steel tube with handles on the sides that fits over the top of a post and is lifted up and down to bang the post into the ground - pretty exhausting work, and still okay to use for one or two posts these days, but if a whole fence is being erected it is better to use a machine.

At the moment we are replacing a section of wire fence and upgrading it to post and rail because it is near to the house and buildings and apart from being stronger, it looks better. The post and rails are made from softwood treated with a standard weatherproof treatment, which extends their life, but they all rot eventually due to the nature of the job.

And when this section is finished it will be time to move onto another field.