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Northern Star



Here in North America, we mostly use barbed wire also known as barbwire.


It was invented here, its relatively cheap, it's easy to use, it's one of the safer types of fence to use around cattle, and...well its everywhere.

A barbed wire fence consists of barbed wire, two strands of smooth wire twisted around each other to secure the barb, made of the same wire curled like a spring and threated on one wire, which is then stretched tight over a distance. The ends must be well braced, regardless of the material used for the end posts, as you want it as tight as you can get it. The posts should be evenly spaced and can be made out of many materials into many styles: wood, steel T posts, 2 7/8" oil field pipe, railroad ties, trees, split rails, composite materials, basically whatever will last the longest, is strong enough for that fence, and is cheap enough to make sense. For steel T posts the wire is "clipped" on using a piece of wire, called a clip, which is formed and shaped to fit the post and the wire. The T posts have notches where it will allow the wire to sit and not move up or down. Wood posts the wire is stapled to it using a U shaped staple made of decent gauge wire and pounded in with a hammer. Oilfield pipe is pounded into the ground with a machine, sometimes tractor or Bobcat mounted, and is usually used for the ends and there is, so far, no satisfactory way to keep the wire from sliding, unless you want to wrap it around the pipe multiple times. Most barbwire fences have 3 or 4 stands and wire, the bottom at about lower shin, or boot top, height, the top at about lower ribcage or a bit below the top of the posts, and the other one or two wires even spaced. 

Doesn't it hurt the cows or other animals?

Not really, if its brand new and tight it will cut them and they will learn to stay away from it, but after a few years it begins to dull and stretch and loosen and then you will see them sticking their heads and necks through it to eat on the other side. You will also see them using the fence to scratch themselves on.

Deer most of the time jump over it and antelope(or "Pronghorn" if you want to be technical) will try to crawl under it. This can cause the clips or staples to be popped off or pulled out. It also doesn't appear to bother them.

When building or maintaining the fence, you usually wear some type of leather gloves, usually deer or cow. You don't really feel the barbs until you wear through the gloves which, depending on the quality, can take years.

Some cows will gain the "fence crawler" trait and crawl through the bar wire fences  and not seem to care at all. They will usually crawl back in at the same spot they crawled out. Same goes for calves, but they seem to have a hard time remembering at times where they crawled through. 

The barbs are just cut wire. They aren't sharpened, just cut at a slight angle.

Doesn't it rust and then have to be replaced?

The wire does rust, yes, but the main thing that gets replaced is the posts. The steel posts are just painted and eventually do rust and break off and wood rots eventually, no matter what coating is applied to it. We have alot of fence that was put up in the mid 1930s by the CCC that still has its original barb wire and quite a few of its original wood posts, but the posts are a special case: the CCC used what was around them and if it created more work, they would do it, as a result they used our surplus of cedar trees by the near by river to make fence posts.  Cedar doesn't rot. For us it appears to be just wear at  ground level which weakens them and then they eventually break off. Today cedar is expensive and mostly for decorative use and the near by river is now a protected area.

As with most wire fences it must be made straight or with very good and braced posts on a curve or when you tighten it, it will take out your curve and make it straight. So most are made with straight lines and corners, not curves.

Woven wire

Image a net made of wire in whatever height you want. You build it similar to barbwire but most woven wire does not have barbs. In most cases it is used for smaller animals, such as sheep. In our experience, it is a pain to work with, just due to the amount of wire. Its heavy, takes alot of staples and clips, and then with cattle does about the same job as barb wire.

It is used more commonly with Buffalo( or Bison if you want to be technical) as they can jump surprisingly high and do not seem to heed barbwire at all, they will just run right through the barbwire like its nothing. As a result we have a special type of staple arrangement to help prevent damage to our barbwire fences when the neighboring buffalo escape. Two staples parallel to the wire with a third sliding through the two staples and holding the wire to the post. In practice it appears to help save posts when they get out.

For using woven wire for Buffalo, two 4 or 5 foot tall sets are placed onto of each other to make a 8 or 10 foot tall fence.  They will occasionally try to jump it on occasions either make it or take it down with them. 

Electric fences

We use them as more of a temporary fence. It's a single or multi strand fence made with single strand wire or wire braded plastic, attached to posts with plastic insulators, and then attached to a DC "fencer" which sends pulses of DC electricity down the fence. Someone touches it when it sends a pulse and are shocked, like a bad static shock to a taser. It sends pulses that last about a 1/4 seconds every second. We put plastic marking plastic on the electric fence and over the years our cows have learned that the single or double wire fence with orange plastic waving from it means "ow" and usually stay well away.

On dry years it doesn't work as well as dry ground doesn't work as well as damp ground to ground whoever is touching. 

The fencer can be powered by AC wall power, a DC car battery, or by solar.

Electric wire or plastic wire does not have to be very tight, just tight enough that it doesn't droop and as a result can be built with curves and bends.

Wood and stone/rock fences. 

Some areas it was popular, most of the time due to the natural surplus of trees or rocks.

Rock fences have no real set way of building them, you just keep going until its tall enough  that they can't crawl over.

Wood has a few different ways, such as the rails placed into holes in the posts or simply nailed to them. They fell out of favor here due to cost and the fact that wood rots and broken wood can be very sharp and deadly. 

Rock and wood fences can be built however, no need for it to be straight. 

For steel fences(such as panels), I figure that fits in better with the livestock equipment as it's not commonly used for long distances, and so will be with that post.

And when it comes down to it's all fences are a deterrent. Nothing every is guaranteed to hold them, they are a 3/4 ton to 1 3/4 ton animal, if they want to go somewhere bad enough, they're going there.

It might not be what Splashee was looking for(or aiming for) but I thought about it and realized that what's simple to us, something we don't really think about(aside from thinking about what a pain it is to keep up a few hundred miles each year), could be a mystery to someone else and well here's a post that I think covers most about it. Any questions or anything I  made unclear let me know and I will try to answer and fix it. 



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