Replacing washed out fencing is one of many tasks farmers and ranchers impacted by spring floods worked to complete this summer.
While replacing missing sections tops the priority list, before winter, landowners may also need to take a closer look at fence still standing.
“Flooding and standing water can do a lot of hidden damage to a fence,” says Keith Taylor, a technical support supervisor with the Bekaert fencing company, which has manufacturing facilities in Van Buren, Arkansas. “Fall is a good time to inspect your fence. You don’t want to wait until a snowstorm to discover your brace is no longer viable.”
Taylor encourages landowners to begin their fence inspection by checking its braces: “No matter how good of a fence you installed, if you have a weak corner or post, that will be the point where the fence fails.”
If a wooden brace post is broken or shows signs of rot and decay and needs to be replaced, he strongly suggests round posts.
“Don’t use a square post. Round posts with all their growth rings intact have the strength of the tree,” Taylor said, adding that it’s best to use brace pins instead of notches to hold the brace together.
While inspecting the fence line, Taylor says to keep an eye out for sediment, grass and other debris which floodwaters may have washed onto the fence.
“I had customers tell me after the flooding, they had to dig their fences out. Get all dirt and debris off the fence,” Taylor said, explaining that this allows the wire to “breathe” and prevents corrosion. “If soil and plant material coat the wire it will begin to corrode. Areas covered with dirt and debris are the areas of the fence to rust first.”
Landowners should check even those fence lines not impacted by standing water and flooding to make sure they are free of grass and other debris, he added.
“Keeping grass and debris off the fence should be part of annual maintenance to increase the longevity of fencing,” Taylor said.
Coatings are another way to prevent rust.
“If cattle producers have sections they still need to replace, consider investing in wire with protective coating. A Class 3 or zinc-aluminum-coated, high-tensile fencing requires less maintenance year-to-year,” Taylor said.
Coatings prevent corrosion because they contain another metals, like zinc or aluminum.
“These metals keep the fence from rusting because they will give themselves up to protect iron and steel,” he said.
Another tip to prevent corrosion: don’t reuse rusty posts.
“The worst thing you can do is use a rusty post. If a new fence is touching a rusty post, the rust on the post will begin to corrode the fencing wire,” he said.
If a T-post is rusty, Taylor said best practice is to replace it or paint it with a cold galvanizing spray or brush-on product. If you’re buying new, Taylor said producers will get the most value for their dollar with galvanized posts.
Fixing fence is labor-intensive. With all the other tasks that need to be wrapped up before winter, Taylor suggests producers who still have washed out or damaged sections left to repair or replace, speed up the process with a joiner and tension system. Bekaert offers the Gripple system, which Taylor describes like a zip tie for fencing.
“It is a joiner and tensioner in one. It cuts down on time and makes it much easier for one person to join two rolls of fence or replace a section of fence,” he said.
It is designed to simplify the entire of installing, maintaining and repairing all types of wire fencing. Joiners can be purchased individually, and used with any type of fencing wire, or producers can purchase rolls of wire fit with joiners.