Monday, March 25, 2013

Cows and fencing

There was a cyclone fence around our backyard when I was little. I do not remember my parents doing anything to maintain it besides an occasional assault on the honeysuckle. Our dogs sometimes got out through a gate that did not shut well, but we just quit using that gate. Our house in Fort Worth also had a cyclone fence, but it needed all the hackberry cut out and had many gaps due to the pushing of the trees in it. We never quite figured out how to tackle the problems that fence had.

Now, fence has come to mean something much different, although maintaining the same purpose. We put up all the fence ourselves, and we tried to put it where we want it. It is easily moved and restructured. It's set at a height that easily allows clearing around it. And it almost always keeps the cows where we want them. That almost is the important part.

Calves, it turns out, are particularly tricky to fence, especially when you're used to keeping a docile milk cow. Even that docile cow occasionally takes a notion to jump the top strand of fence wire. So far, we have not had to wander off our property to find a cow or calf, but I'm attributing that to luck. We have talked about putting tall woven wire around the perimeter, but it's expensive and time consuming to install. We will do it, but in stages, and starting only in the places we feel certain we want the fenceline to remain. Each year, we've tweaked the fenceline, realizing that the back pasture has quite good grazing closer to the house, or that we want space in the front field for a really big garden space. We want the cow to graze in the orchard, but we don't want fence there all the time. And so on...

We also have a wooden paddock by the cow shed as a more permanent fence and one that does not rely on electricity. This is because electric fence does not carry much of a jolt in winter what with snow and frozen ground and all.

However, when we knew we were building a new cow shed and that we would have to address the fencing around that AND we were confronted with all the bedding in the old cow shed, we took down part of the paddock to make moving the tractor around easier. (The tractor will now be considered in all fence placement.)  Here we are in March with new calves who can simply walk through wire- and we've seen calves do it even when the wire has a powerful punch- and no real paddock to confine them. Also, the opening we made in the paddock for the tractor is so wide that no fence solution we know of will work. Perhaps now is a good time to point out that sinking fence posts in March is, shall we say, challenging.

What are we poor planners to do?

First you get more cattle panels. I'm sorry there is no picture of the panels strapped over the top of the CRV. Suffice it to say that these panels are very flexible and reached from the front bumper all the way down the back glass. We drove the half hour home quite carefully, peering through the grids of the panels.

Next, some bungee cords and ratchet straps come in handy. We also found an alternative use for some wrapped bales of hay.

It's true that the cow is already tearing at the plastic where she can reach it. And it's true that the bungee cords probably will not hold Violet in when she wants the grass that will be growing a couple of weeks before she's allowed to graze. But we'll deal with these problems as they arise. The hay that's messed up by the torn plastic can be used as bedding or mulch. We'll run a hot wire inside the paddock once a little electricity will do some good. For now, I'll just enjoy our funny innovations.

And I'll be comforted that everyone is contained, at least for now.

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