Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Fence and Barn, 1 year in.

It doesn't seem like we have had the new paddock system and barn rework for a year now. Well actually  13 months.

Time does fly.

January 2018 saw the new fences complete and a lean to, new roof  and doors on the Tobacco barn. We were so pleased.

The Barn just days after it was finished.

Cows behind beautiful fence.

Now after a year we are still pleased overall but have learned a lot about gate placement, livestock travel patterns and mud.

We made one major mistake with the gates. We hung them in the standard fenceline configuration. This means the hinges are in line with the fence wire. The gates hang well that way and are fine if the gates are opened to let livestock in and out then shut again.
However if your intending to leave the paddocks open to a lane for watering the animals....they need to be able to open fully and lay alongside the fence out of livestocks way and secured against wind.

This requires the hinges to be drilled through the posts opposite to the direction of the fence...the hinges then need to be cut flush as not to hurt livestock.

 *Note the top hinge is upside down, this stops the gate from getting lifted off its hinges if stock rubs it. It doesn't impact the strength of the gate or how it swings.

This mistake has caused two gates to get by wind getting it swinging and bending it,  the other was "Mischief" damage.  She had an itch!!!

Mischief itch damage!

Our plan is to re-hang all the gates but two.

One of the other problems is mud. The gate into paddock 4 was a problem right from the start. Our land slopes, the slope from paddock 4 to the working lane is the steepest of all the gateways. Sadly it was the only location to have a gate that stock could see and would be worked through. We have discovered it is also a drainage for paddock 4. This never showed up the previous two winters but this winter has been exceptionally wet and for the first time we also have livestock.

It is a mess and the sheep don't like it at all. Plus continuing to use the gate makes the situation worse.  Fortunatly we have a second gate to paddock 4 from the hayfield. The sheep will follow Ralph anywhere when he has a bucket and we are using the upper gate. The main gate will get a load of heavy crush in it this summer, in fact there are several places we will be using gravel to help drainage.

Cows tend to cut corners, here is damage where they come to the barn.
 We will spread a gravel pad around this corner to keep the strength of the corner post intact, plus there is nothing like washing clay splatters and gobs off a milk cow when your going to milk her.

This is the other side of the barn where we spread a lot of large crush. We thought it was too much but now we see it was just right. The traffic area stays dry. 

The Orchard gate, there was a washout under this gate from corral drainage, we filled it with about 2 feet of crush.  The water drains through the gravel and the gate remains dry and useful.

Now with spring in the air we are planning the first year of serious pasture rotation. Last cycle we did not have anywhere near enough stock to deal with the peak grass growth. With the sheep and cattle we have now we should be close to the right number. We will have to pay attention though, the Farmers Alamanac says a wet summer ahead. We will be using single strand hot wire to divide paddocks as needed.

We are totally pleased with the barn rebuild. The Lean-to gave the cattle great shelter in rainy weather and has enough room to store equiptment under cover. The addition of lights makes it extremely useful.

The lights are mounted under the edge of the roof. They are set to shine out into the paddock. 
There are two dust proof barn lights mounted on the inner wall and there are also plug ins.  For calving and lambing this gives us extra space we can work in.

 The fence Energizer is mounted in the rafters and is high and dry as well as out of reach of stock.

The sliding doors have made the barn so much less drafty on windy and rainy days. We have them set up to latch shut both from the inside, if we are working in the barn, and the outside if we are shutting things up for the night.

 A simple handle and latch secure the door from the outside and make for easy opening or closing. There are hooks on both ends to secure the doors against wind.

This is an inner latch. We use locking hooks that are quite affordable. This stops the wind or cows from working the hooks open.
We have eyelets on the 2x4 frame at various spots to allow the door to be locked partially open if needed.

 The barn just makes us happy. Lots of room for everyone out of the weather and the hay storage in the loft is dry and easy to feed from.

The only flaw.....well there is 1 hole in the new roof. Old habits are hard to break. We had become used to shooting possum without much thought to bullet trajectory. I mean the old roof was seriously full of holes so we just shot where we saw the possum

Well Ralph shot a possum in the rafters and now.....if you stand just can see the hole. our brand new roof. He did kill the possum though. Now it just takes a bit more care to varmint hunt.

So after a year are we glad we invested in the old barn?
A resounding yes. The barn meets all our needs and still has room to fill.

After a year of the permanent fence being completed, do we consider it money well spent.
Yes  we do, it does need some adjustment and some small changes but over all we are really happy with it. The portable netting seems to be a hot item but we think in our situation the permanent fence is more suitable. Our base design will allow the use of portable or temporary fencing if we need to use it. The permanent aspect means that if the stock gets out of their paddocks they won't get off the farm. (We hope, but anyone who has animals know how they find holes)

This spring and summer will see us learn more about our farm and managing grass. We love the thought of not bush hogging or mowing.

With year two of the rebuilt barn and new fences well on its way things are looking good.

God Bless all of you and keep safe.


  1. Sounds like plans coming to fruition, Fiona. I will be watching to see how the pasture rotation goes since that is something we have always tried to implement.

    We ended up keeping a pile of gravel around,because there is always somewhere that needs a little more, or a new area that needs attention.

    Thanks for the update, Fern

    1. We are in need of Sunny, warm weather for our grass to get a good start. Paddocks 1. 2, 3, 5, and 6 are starting to get green but are mu h slower this year. I think city folk miss out grass growth observation. It puts us in tune with our world in such a basic way.
      I will tell Ralph about your gravel stockpile.
      God Bless you both

  2. It's really nice to read not only your progress, but you analysis of it. The gates and latches are well thought through and of course the mud is a universal problem!

    I agree with your reply to Fern about observing forage growth. "Watching the grass grow" is so much more important than the way that phrase is used!

  3. Love this post. Always a plus to learn from others. Especially interesting is the difference and commonalities between species .

    Good job!

    1. Our ancestors took advantage of all their animals, no monoculture for them. Modern agriculture needs to look back at stock and crop diversity to keep healthier pastures and animals. (Just my opinion but ww love the way our animals interact.)