May Long Week-end: A Time to Fence
For as long as I can remember, it has been a family tradition to fence on Victoria Day Week-end. It is usually right around this time that the cows go to pasture, so it is a matter of importance to ensure the fences are all up, in good repair and that ‘heat’ is on all the hot wire cross fences.
Back in the early years, the family farm had quite a number of rail fences. For those unfamiliar with these, Ontario was predominantly forest when it was settled. Early pioneers cleared the land and kept a lot of the timber around for future use. One of these uses was the backbreaking task of splitting cedar logs into rails, and then using these rails to build fences. While the fences were functional, they did provide perfect scratching posts for cows. A year full of scratching often meant that the rail fences needed a lot of repair come spring. Gradually over time, the rail fences have been replaced primarily with high-tensil hot wires, but a few areas of rail fences remain. I find it quite amazing that well over 100 years since the land was cleared, the rails from the early settlers are still in use. Today’s picture is one from Mom at Dora Lee – from the lower yard looking out toward the pasture. It gives a great indication of what rail fences look like.
Here at Applecross, our fencing is a lot more straight forward. Our farm is fenced and cross-fenced with 4 strand barb wire, and then we have reinforced this with a hot wire. We have also begun
cross-fencing into even smaller pastures via single strand hotwire, to allow for different management groups and more rotational grazing. With land prices where they are at in Central Alberta, we are trying to maximize the grazing potential of our property. Our goal is to have 3 management groups (bred heifers, bull calf pairs, heifer calf pairs), with 3 sets of rotational grazing for each group. Each
paddock should hopefully have 10 days of grass, allowing a 3 week break between grazes. Obviously moisture conditions and the season can speed or slow the rotation, but having options and trying to
maximize our pasture production remain our primary goals.
With the late arrival of spring in Alberta, we seem to have skipped right to summer: 20 degree days and lots of daylight have accelerated the pasture growth, so it looks like our cattle will be able to go to grass next week. Walking the pastures looking at cattle is one of my favourite activities, so it will be great to get them out – in the interim, there is lots of fencing to finish, but thankfully no rails to worry about!