While fencing technology continues to evolve, there is still room for barbed wire.
Much of the change is coming on the electric side, says David Bruene, beef farm manager for Iowa State University. He says some fencing systems come with sensors that can read the power in the electric fence and make adjustments, helping to ensure cattle stay away.
“You can have shorts but still hold livestock,” Bruene says.
New fence testers can help pinpoint where electrical shorts are located, he says. That saves a producer from having to walk the entire fence line to find that short.
At the ISU farm, Bruene says fences can be checked remotely, and if necessary, sensors can be turned off so the fence can be repaired.
Conductors have also come a long way, he says.
“We don’t get the amp draw we used to get,” Bruene says. “That allows us to use longer stretches of fence.”
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Electric fencing has been used in rotational grazing systems for many years, and he says it continues to be popular.
“One student can put out 500 feet of fence in 8 to 10 minutes,” he says. “It’s very efficient.”
Bruene says five- and six-strand barbed wire fence remains popular for perimeter fencing.
That’s the wire of choice for most of Clint Young’s customers. He is the owner of Young Fencing near Creston, Iowa, serving customers in southwest and south central Iowa, as well as northwest Missouri.
“Much of what we do is permanent fencing, and we probably put down 70 miles or more of fencing each year,” Young says. “I would say three-fourths of that is barbed wire.”
He says while fencing itself remains much the same, there are enhanced tools that make his job easier. That includes post drivers that are mostly hydraulic.
“We aren’t digging holes anymore. We are just driving the posts into the ground,” Young says.
He says farmers continue to look into new fencing systems, but costs have increased quite a bit from 2021.
“In some areas, it has doubled in price from last year,” Young says. “But we’ve stayed really busy, so that shows the demand for the new fence is still there.”
Brian Lease is the owner of Central Missouri Feed & Supply in Clark. He sells fencing that is primarily used in electric systems.
“Remote turn-off systems have been around for a few years, but folks pretty much stick to what we’ve used for a long time,” Lease says.
He says high-tensile wire is still used for both permanent and temporary systems. Lease says many of his customers like to use fiberglass posts in their permanent systems.
“They are going to outlast the composite posts,” he says.
Lease says he has sold a lot of fencing used in rotational grazing systems, but says now most of that is being used more as boundary fencing.
“We had a big push for rotational grazing, but we are selling a lot more fencing for boundary rather than perimeter use,” he says.
Lease has his own cattle operation and uses it to demonstrate how fencing works.
“We bring them out so they can see what it does,” he says. “They can see we are having success with it.”
Jeff DeYoung is editor and livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.