Fencing with Cows

In the early days we did a lot of fencing ourselves.  Even after lots of practice we never really got very good at it.  Partially it’s not having the right tools, and partially lack of patience.  We’ve since had quite a bit of fencing done properly, which is always satisfying to see (if a little galling).  One of the bits which hasn’t been re-done separates the narrow field with the cows in it from what was to be my south facing slope, and is instead a little bit of wild ground.  This morning it was clear this fencing had failed.

Avarice had somehow got through and was now staring at me from the bottom of the slope.  And then mooing for food.  She wasn’t interested in coming back either.  I quickly doscovered that a stretch of the fence which had looked a little weakened and pulled down a couple of weeks ago had been completely pushed down (shows that I should actually do something when I see fencing in that state!).  Now the area she was in has pretty lush grass and probably does need to be cropped down, but I had two concerns, a) Wrath might want to join her daughter and catch her wounded udder on the pushed down fence and make it worse, and b) the fencing right at the back is only three lengths of barbed wire, not enough to stop the sheep should they really decide they want to get through.  The fence clearly needed fixing:

After sorting out a few other things I collected my old trusty set of fence repairing tools:

  • a hammer
  • some fence staples (two sizes, one big and one small)
  • a wire cutter
  • a penknife
  • a bucket of feed

This last is very important, both to persuade any wandering animals back in to the correct field, and to distract any inquisitive animals while I’m bent over hammering nails in.

Fortunately we have a few reasonable lengths of fence remaining and I grabbed one which looked like it would do the job, and headed down to the broken fence.  When I got there some of the sheep had also gamboled over into the slope area, but they were easy to persuade back with the bucket.  Wrath had not crossed the line, probably in fear of her udders, but Avarice was nowhere to be seen.  Then I heard some almost plaintive mooing, and saw Avarice was in with the OAPs.  Somehow she’d got through the fence separating the south facing slope from the big field as well.  Now I had the fear that the fields were effectively connected again and all my efforts to sort the sheep had been wasted.  A quick count assured me that no sheep had yet figured out the route, so I followed the fence along to see what Avarice had done.

The cows are quite big.  When they lean against the fence they can cause the fence staples to pop out.  I think they’ve realised this can be useful…  Down the bottom of the fence Avarice had managed to push through and loosen four panels of mesh.  This meant she could get underneath it and into the field, but it left the mesh in place, looking like it was still fixed which is why the sheep hadnt yet challenged it.  I’ll take that as almost good news!  A lesson here – fix broken fencing as soon as possible as there are always consequences if you dont.

I coaxed Avarice through the gate and into the south facing slope area, and then attempted to coax her back into the small field.  Suddenly the crushed fence which she’d happily walked over earlier in the day was an issue, and she refused to cross.  Here she is just testing the line:

Eventually I charmed her over with a combination of wit and the feed bucket.  I then set about putting in the new fencing.  I didn’t have any strainers (required to make the fence nice and taut), so I decided to go for my standard bodge approach – put the new fence over the existing.  Five minutes of rolling out, doing some manual straining (pulling it one way as I hammer the staples in – better than nothing), and a lot of hammering, and the fence was fixed.  Well, hopefully it will keep the animals out until the spring when we’ll probably open up the whole slope area.  This is what bodged fencing looks like:

Satisfied I’d done enough for the moment, I went down to the other end of the south facing slope and fixed the damage Avarice had done.  This just involved hammering in a load more staples.  Ironically this was some of the new fence we’d recently had done properly, so I felt a little less disappointed with my own fencing efforts!




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