Calf Proof. What an oxymoron. They are liquid. More-so than a cat I believe. Our first farm calf was born around the end of June, and he really is a doll baby. We steered and tagged him at 4 weeks old, but otherwise we leave him in his momma’s capable care. He acts like he has two mommas, since he hangs out with our other (pregnant) cow more than his own it seems.
A few weeks ago, we moved them from the large pasture they shared with the horses into a smaller space for pasture rotation. Most of our exterior fences are at least 5 stranded wire, but between pastures, some remained three strands; which isn’t enough to make a calf break stride if he wants in. This is not a huge issue, since the fence that the adorable little darling was slipping through went to another fenced pasture.
Except last week, he also somehow slipped through 5 stranded barbed wire and was playing in the road. It is a back country road, but still. Some saint stopped and told my neighbors, who called me (so thankful for work from home days). Since the calf is more or less wild, he decided to bolt back through the five stranded wire into the big pasture. He got his back legs caught but nothing serious and minimal blood loss. There was a time when even a drop of blood was cause to call the vet. Those days are long gone. The rule around here is, if you can walk and skin isn’t missing, you’ll make it (that’s a rule that transcends all species, by the way, even humans).
About those fabulous tips
When building a fence, do it right the first time and build it such that it will contain whatever you can ever possibly envision owning. The first time that pasture was fenced, we had two horses, and three strands of wire was more than sufficient. Actually, for a time, we had no fencing up. The overgrowth was so thick on one outside line of one of the pastures, we never checked it. Figuring the horses couldnt get to it to escape. Turns out The fence was missing for good ways, but no one ever went missing. Once we had been here a year or so, we started setting all new fences with a minimum of 6 strands on perimeter fences and 5 on internal lines (and clearing brush to find missing fences).
On a side note, we also have these lovely walk thrus that allow us to enter and exit pastures without clanging and drawing attention to ourselves or having something follow us out.
This particular section of fence was due for replacement to 5 strands starting next week. However, someone had other plans. Fencing is really not as permanent as you think it is the first time you put it up, and it has become one of my favorite farm chores (kind of).
Break out the survey tools
If you’re starting with an existing fence row and just restringing it, I highly recommend running a string and seeing how straight the line is. It does tend to bother you after a while. If it’s a new fence, run a string. I’ve found at least 100 ft to be best. Run a string, then run a tape and mark off your spacings. (Are we weird, doesn’t everyone want such nice neat lines?)
How tall are you?
If all of your posts are wooden, measuring and cutting them to the same height is not going to be a problem after the fact. But the bins can tend to get messy when you buy t-posts at the feed store. We ended up setting anywhere from 5 to 6.5 ft tall t-posts the first time around and it will really ruin your day when stringing fence and you run out of room on the top strand.
So in addition to resetting the wire to a 5 strand spacing, I also pulled all the metal t-posts and reset them with 6 foot posts. My fence line is SO pretty now.
First things first, you need to unzip all of the metal ties that you (or someone else) twisted around the metal posts. I cannot speak highly enough of my mini vise grips for this job. I think in the beginning, we used needle nosed pliers and we even tried those expensive tools they sell at Tractor Supply with the fencing equipment. Don’t fall for it. Vise grips are the bees knees.
Next , since the existing wooden posts of the fence was in good shape, just not close enough, I dropped the spacing down on the existing three wires. Fencing staples are not difficult to remove, if you have the right tool. Somewhere in my pasture, there is an antique set of fence pliers that were my husbands grandfathers. I lost them last winter and am still kicking myself. They still make them, and they are worth the cost. But I loved my old pair. If they had a bright red handle like these, I wouldn’t have lost them. Make sure you move the wire and re-staple as you go, otherwise you will have twisted up wires and potentially lose a lot of tension.
Mark Your Posts
If you have any fashion of OCD, pay attention here. If you don’t, you’re going to develop it once you stare at an uneven fence for any length of time. Mark your posts. When we first set the fences, we eyeballed distances and said “looks good” a LOT. And then discussed how stupid that was for even longer. Now, all wooden posts get measured from the ground up for evenly spaced wires. This may seem obvious to everyone but us, but it certainly wasnt considered the first time around. Simply decide how tall the highest strand of wire will be, divide by the number of strands of wire you will have, and mark off with a pencil. If you are even more lazy, measure one, then mark a 2×4 with the right length and carry it with you (me, I am that lazy). This will result in evenly spaced wire, but know it will run up and down with the ground.
Also, count your metal post notches. You would think that, if the wire is tight and at the same height at the wooden posts that make up every fifth fence post, then the wire will lay where needed against the metal posts. You would think wrong.
Wire that is strung equidistant from one another is a beautiful sight to behold, which is why I don’t mind the extra work going into it. It is well worth looking at the end result.
Tight, but not like a drum
Aside from my long lost fence pliers, my next most prized farm tool are my fence stretchers. (also belonging to the aforesaid grandfather). These handy dandy things can string a fence so tight you can play music on them. Don’t make them that tight. This go round, I am happy to say I learned my lesson and didn’t, but two fencing sessions ago, I had the fence so tight that when twisting the wire to the metal posts, I snapped the wire in half because there was so much tension. Twice. Let me just tell you, it is heartbreaking to patch in a brand new section of fence.
Your move calf
As of 6:30 that evening, the fence was set and mostly tied, though some strands still need the metal post ties added (9 hours in the heat was enough for this hot house flower). We were wrapping up the last of the wire stretching when I saw the calf BACK in the big pasture that I had just finished stringing. You have got to be kidding me. So I went up to politely ask what he thought he was doing, and witnessed him walking right thru the walk thru we had made. Touche. So we now have a temporary fix in that until either he A) Weighs 800 lbs and is too fat to fit; or B) we put a spring-loaded gate at the entrance.
So far, he has stayed where he belongs that I can tell. And I’m making more trips to check than I care to admit. Knock on wood (like, every single tree in the forest kind of wood).