Fencing so a 12-Year-Old Can Run the Ranch

If you set up the day to day operations of your ranch so a 12-year-old can run things, your level of enjoyment will be greatly enhanced. You will have more time to think, plan, and recreate. Further, if a 12-year-old can look after the ranch, then so can an 80yr old. Getting to this point takes a shift in thinking. It really comes down to asking yourself, ‘Can a 12-year-old do this?’ about everything you do, right down to what type of tools you buy. An example I use when explaining my philosophy deals with a pipe wrench. There are two types of wrenches, a steel pipe wrench and an aluminum pipe wrench. If your place is set up for a 12-year-old to run, you will buy the more expensive aluminum pipe wrench. Certainly a 12-year-old can use the heavier steel pipe wrench, however, it is more difficult to carry and use than an aluminum one. When things are awkward and difficult, there is less motivation to properly perform a task. It has been my experience that when jobs are simple and easy, they get done better and with less complaining. Over the course of 20 years, this thinking has helped me to reduce labor in all aspects of my ranching life. A big part of that is the template I have developed for fencing. I know many people disagree with how I fence citing less expensive materials, that I'm over doing things, I have too many gates, etc. Those concerns certainly have merit. In fact, we started out fencing very cheaply. Our first fencing was with rebar posts because th

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8 thoughts on “Fencing so a 12-Year-Old Can Run the Ranch

  1. Great article, next article I’d like to see here discussed is loading and sorting of cattle for a 12 year old and an 80 year old, I am 53 and hope to keep working my small cattle operation till death.

    1. Great attitude Michael. Our kids would help sort when they were 9-10yrs old using poly wire. At that age they were big enough to lift the poly wire over the animals we wanted left in the pen or paddock. It is still the main way I sort when doing corral work. Of course my cowboy friends won’t even attempt it because ‘It’s not the cowboy way!’lol I will make a point of getting a video next time we sort so you can see exactly how it works.
      Ranching for a 12/80yr old is really a state of mind. A neighbour who is turning 77 this year is running 150 cows by himself with much less hassle than when he was 40 and running 80 cows. Now he only does what he wants. He likes to travel in the winter so he started bale grazing intensively 10 yrs ago. His grandkids just open gates to a new paddock once a week while he is gone. He hates removing twines or netwrap so he buys sisel twine for the people who make his hay and leaves it on the bales. If he requires day help because he pissed off his kids & grandkids, he just hires it.
      Jim is not an unusual specimen. He’s a grumpy old farmer just like lots of people around here. What he discovered is that when you make things simple, ranching can be easy.
      (Disclaimer: we did rent his land for three years about 13yrs ago and set up the initial fencing, so he had a template to start out with.)

  2. Great tips, Tom.

    One little trick I’ve started using is to place the Daisy strainer about 6 feet from the gate post, on the “cold” side of the gate. (Almost all of my spring gates are cold when open). This puts the Daisy in a perfect position to hang the gate handle onto, with the spring slightly stressed and suspended, keeping the spring from getting tangled in tall grass and easy to find.

  3. “• Use 8’ X 5-6” pressure treated posts as end posts and gates pounded half way into the ground.
    Larger end posts are used because they don’t break when moose or elk hit the fence at full speed. When they are pounded in half-way a brace is not required to keep the post from moving.”

    This may be true where the author has built fence, but it’s not true where the climate and soils lend themselves to a lot of frost action. Folks in New England, most of New York, and probably some large swaths of the norther tier of Pennsylvania will find that single end posts, no matter how stout or deeply driven, will pull out of the ground in five to 10 years. Of course by then the 12 year old will be 17 to 22 and be full of vim and vigor and ready to fix it.

    1. Thx for the comment Bill. I am located in northern Alberta and started fencing like this 15-18yrs ago. We have a lot of frost as you can imagine and so far the end posts are still holding tension on the wires. Of course the soil must have some integrity, so peat moss or swamp won’t work, but I also don’t put corner posts in that type of soil.

    2. Hey guys,
      I am in Minnesota and we get really bitter cold winters and my posts are only 3 feet deep. Posts have been in the ground for over 10 years without any issues. End posts are 5×8 and in between 4×8. I go like 10 feet between posts, they seem to work fine with the frost and all. I keep Texas longhorns and Scottish highland and big horn sheep in the fenced area. I have a hot wire running all along to keep the bulls in line. Man they are always testing the strength of the fence. I have woven wire in all my paddocks except one and sometimes they try to get underneath it for some reason. Grass is always greener on the other side.

      1. Cool beans Kais! I like that the animals graze under the fence because it keeps the brush down and the fence clear. I have seen cows on their knees grazing 2-3′ on the other side of the fence. I don’t know why either.lol

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