The Best Way to Approach Spring Fence Repair

In spring, it’s wise to examine the livestock fencing on your farm and repair winter damage. Here's how to plan it and the tools you'll need.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

When winter ends and spring begins, it’s wise to examine all the livestock fencing on your farm and repair any damage, regardless of whether it’s minor or major, suffered during the course of winter. The coldest season of the year can be tough on all types of fencing. Fence posts can be heaved out of alignment by frost in areas where human or livestock frequently walk during the winter, such as near gates. The weight of snow and ice can exert a pull on electric wire fences, requiring them to be tightened. Even wild animals such as deer can cause damage as they traverse your pastures, cross your fences and inadvertently (but inevitably) pull something down. If the wild animals break nothing, it’s still possible that your own livestock has chewed on fence posts, perhaps enough to require that the posts be replaced.

In recent days I’ve made minor repairs to my farm’s electric fences, and I’ve gotten a lot done. The fences are in good shape for the most part, but some lines have needed tightening, and I’ve had to reattach a few loose rollers. Apparently, the crazy deer around here (there are dozens) have been a bit careless while crossing fences.

In tackling these repair projects, you might be tempted to take a preliminary scouting walk to list needed repairs, but you’re bound to find a lot of areas that need only minor corrections. In my opinion, a better approach is to pack a well-equipped fence repair toolbox to carry with you on your excursion and make minor repairs as you come across them.

The contents of your toolbox depends on the type of fencing you have installed, but generally useful tools include an electric drill (with a variety of screwdriver bits), a hammer, a crescent wrench and several pairs of pliers, ideally including locking pliers and tongue-and-groove pliers. Also bring a healthy supply of screws and nails, along with fence-specific replacement parts (such as rollers and bolts for wire fences). If you’re working on electric wire fencing, a ratcheting come-along might be necessary for tightening loose lines.

Armed with your ready-for-anything toolbox, you can walk the perimeters of your pastures (and then any internal dividing fence lines) and correct minor issues as you go along. This way, your initial scouting expedition can be more productive, and you can save your list-making for larger repairs that require more supplies, larger tools and a little more planning.

For example, you won’t straighten or replace fence posts on a whim, or repair/replace broken boards on a wooden fence without advance preparation. List what needs to be done, then load up a wagon with tools such as post hole diggers, a digging bar and a shovel, plus extra dirt, spare boards, spare posts and your fence repair toolbox. This way, you’ll be properly equipped and can work on completing several of your checklist items at once. Replacing posts can be a slow process, but not many posts should need it, and you might be surprised at how much you can accomplish in a busy afternoon.

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Good luck with your fence repairs!

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