Use A Tractor To Remove Stubborn Fence Posts

When manpower just won’t do to complete your farm chores, it’s time to get your tractor involved.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson

On any farm, there are many jobs needing to be done on any given day, which is why properly managing time and effort is so important. By doing things in the most productive way, it’s possible to get more things accomplished during a day. With many pasture fences to care for, I spend a lot of time each year repairing and replacing fence posts. Over the years, it’s become a bit of an art form; with the right equipment on hand, some posts can be replaced in as little as 20 or 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, not all projects go so easily. On one fall afternoon, after it had been raining for days, my brother and I were replacing a damaged fence post that had been set in the ground using concrete. Any post with concrete is tricky and time-consuming to remove, but as we soon discovered, this post would be the hardest of them all.

Due to all of the rain, water had seeped in between the concrete and the post, and the mud was holding the post in place with suction like a vacuum. Even with both of us tugging on the post, it refused to come out of the ground.

We had two choices—we could dig up the entire post and block of concrete, leaving a gaping hole in the soggy ground that would have to be filled in, or we could keep trying to remove the post from its concrete container. Neither option was particularly appealing, and both would require a lot of time and effort, but then my brother proposed a third option: that we use the hydraulic lift of our tractor’s three-point hitch to pull the post out of the ground.

Being a person that thrives on routine, I was initially reluctant to change plans, but the time-saving potential that the hydraulic lift offered was appealing, and we decided to give it a try. My brother walked back to the barnyard and brought back Little Mo, our old John Deere Model 40, and then slowly backed her up until her hydraulic lifting arms were situated on either side of the stubborn post.

Using a chain, we tied the arms securely to the post, and then—as we watched with curiosity and hope—my brother engaged the hydraulic lift. With barely any effort at all, Little Mo casually lifted the post out of the ground, and a loud gurgling sound came from the hole as the muddy water reluctantly let go of the post. It couldn’t have been any easier!
Thanks to Little Mo, a hard and time-consuming task became as simple as could be in a matter of moments.

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Tips & Safety Advice

As always, farm machines have the potential to be dangerous, and caution should always be foremost when using machines to do any job. Here are some tips and advice to help keep you safe while removing fence posts with your tractor:

  • Always be careful! If a post is absolutely stuck and won’t move, it’s possible for the front end of your tractor to lift off the ground, particularly if you have a lightweight tractor. Be prepared to release the lift if you feel the tractor start to move instead of the post.
  • Manually loosen each post before getting your tractor involved. Work the soil with a digging bar and wiggle the post back and forth to free it from the ground before you let the tractor do the lifting.
  • Try alternate methods with caution. It’s also possible to remove fence posts by chaining them to the front-end loader of your tractor. While this works well in many cases, the three-point hitch can be stronger, and there is always the risk that the rear end of your tractor will lift off the ground, which can obviously be dangerous.

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