I have a love-hate relationship with fences. A good fence is essential for stock management and control. On the other hand, I hate having to get over barbed wire, as I’m not good at the seamless leap over. Barbed wire is particularly important if you have cattle who like to lean on them. Sheep don’t lean so much, although they will get in a big mob and push a fence over if they’re really frightened, for example if they’re being hunted by dogs. Cattle can be held in by electric fences, sheep need something more substantial as they’re well insulated against shocks.
Mostly the fences I’ve been getting replaced were made with strained wire using timber posts, the older ones also with timber pickets. The new ones are built with steel strainers which are less vulnerable to fire and termites and likely to stand for many decades.
I’ve been using plain wire instead of barbed in the replacement fences because we don’t have cattle most of the time, so the leaning is not a problem. Plain wire is also slightly less likely to catch kangaroos jumping over, although we have still had a couple misjudging their jumps even on plain wire and getting trapped, which was fatal for them.
Basically, while fences are essential for stock, they’re a significant barrier for wildlife. The wallaroos in particular are most common where the fences are most widely spaced.
One issue for straining wire and netting is that it doesn’t work well on short runs. Lengths less than 20 metres usually don’t strain up properly, and the top wire is likely to begin to sag quite quickly.
My solution is to use stockyard mesh with metal star pickets which are unwieldy to use in large numbers, but relatively usable and cost effective for smaller areas.
It requires an annual adventure with MA Steel’s 8 metre trailer to transport the 6 metre sheets, plus the star pickets in order to create a number of tree paddock enclosures for stock shade and shelter and connection for wildlife.
Because this year’s location for my mini-triangles is quite steep, we dropped the whole collection near the track where the trailer could be safely turned around. That meant a lot of carrying sheets around until we figured out that we could hitch the mesh onto the four wheel drive ute and transport them like a bridal train to the individual locations we needed.
I got to hike around putting up steel picket markers to show where to place them – around 50 metres apart.
A lot of the locations needed slashing to make them accessible without being miserably stabbed by saffron thistle heads. As last year’s thistles are now pretty dry, they break and brush aside pretty easily compared to in the spring when they are tough and fibrous, like when Patrick worked for days just to make a track through the Box Gum area.
My new excellent farm hand Dmitry, plus James and Margo did most of the heavy work with the mesh dragging and triangle construction.
Meanwhile Craig and I constructed a larger triangle near the water tank on the saddle of the hill leading to Mulliondale and the Box Gum area. That will make a windbreak connecting to the longer one going up the hill to the Box Gum (which will be contructed in a few weeks from strained wire and netting).
Somehow my star pickets never seem to come out in straight lines, the waviness accentuated by the rather unforgiving mesh. In the process we took down a perfectly good strained fence built by Andrew Kilby, and his nice straight pickets are taunting me.
Nevertheless, lots of tie-wire later, we have 16 small and one large triangle/diamond ready for planting.