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- Boundary fences’ function is not only to separate the good from the bad, but also helps you to stay on the right side of the law and stay on good terms with your neighbour.
- Fencing can be regarded as a social management tool with different objectives such as the demarcation of property, land use protection (e.g. separating crops and livestock), as well as preventing conflict between humans and wild animals.
- Without proper fences, it is impossible to implement biosecurity.
- There are basically three types of fences: temporary, semi-permanent and permanent, and each one’s maintenance is different.
- Producers can utilise smart technology such as computer applications to simplify maintenance.
Just like skin forms a barrier to keep good things inside and bad things out, fences are essential for the optimal functioning of a farming enterprise. Like skin that occasionally requires a plaster, fences require regular maintenance else it could cost you dearly in terms of money and labour.
Boundary fences’ function is not only to separate the good from the bad, but also helps you to stay on the right side of the law and stay on good terms with your neighbour.
Fences and legislation
“Agriculturalists have certain rights as well as an obligation to adhere to the law,” says Willie Clack, national vice-chairperson of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO). “In other words, you have the right to farm cattle but you also have a duty to maintain your boundary fences.”
Fencing can be regarded as a social management tool with different objectives such as the demarcation of property, land use protection (e.g. separating crops and livestock), as well as preventing conflict between humans and wild animals.
“Fencing is such an important issue in South Africa that it is included in the Constitution of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996),” says Willie, adding that there are other sets of legislation at various levels of government that also address the issue of fences.
At a national level, legislation relating to fences includes the Game Theft Act, 1991 (Act 105 of 1991), Fencing Act, 1963 (Act 31 of 1963), Stock Theft Act, 1959 (Act 57 of 1959), Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act 35 of 1984), National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act 10 of 2004), National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998), National Parks Act, 1976 (Act 57 of 1976) and South African National Roads Agency Limited and National Roads Act, 1998 (Act 7 of 1998).
The true state of affairs
Despite the legislation, one cannot help but wonder if property owners are maintaining their boundary fences adequately.
“Drive on any road in the country and you will notice how big a problem dilapidated fences are,” says James Faber, chairperson of the RPO (and Veeplaas’s 2022 Climate-Smart Ambassador). “Cattle that roam our roadsides is a common sight and a ‘don’t care’ culture has seemingly replaced common sense when it comes to maintaining fences.”
Added to the mix is the state’s inadequacy in fulfilling the requirements set out in legislation. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding issues such as who is responsible for fences in communal areas. These uncertainties, in turn, threaten biosecurity. “Without proper fences it is impossible to implement biosecurity and, as a result, we will never be able to combat diseases such as brucellosis or foot-and-mouth disease,” says James.
It is vital that producers have a clear understanding of what it is they wish to control and manage. “Where predators are concerned, the approach is more complex than simply kraaling animals. Regardless of whether you use electric or mesh fencing – mending and maintaining it remains crucial.”
The cost of steel
“A fence is a strategic capital asset that producers must maintain in a timely manner,” says James, adding that increases in production costs cannot be used as an excuse to postpone much needed repairs.
It is, however, a reality that the price of steel has risen sharply since the start of Covid-19. South African steel producer, AcelorMittal, predicts that prices will escalate even further due to rising international demand and the weakened Rand.
Mark Smit, sales manager at Gallagher, says the steel price increase in recent years resulted in especially larger fence posts and movable fences becoming more expensive.
Maintain your asset
There are basically three types of fences: temporary, semi-permanent and permanent, and each one’s maintenance is different. All these fences require regular inspection and maintenance, says Mark. “Inspect your large fences every three to six months to make sure they’re in good working order. Smaller fences, such as the ones around the farmhouse, need servicing once every six months.”
Maintenance promotes aspects such as safety and biosecurity. “Fences can serve as early warning systems if something goes wrong, but if owners don’t maintain them they will not fulfil this purpose.”
This is true for especially modern electrified fences. Owners must familiarise themselves with how the maintenance of these fences – especially if they are solar powered – differ from that of traditional fences.
“In terms of solar powered fences, the biggest challenge is checking the battery regularly to ensure that it is functioning. You need a functioning battery and inverter, else the solar powered fence will serve no purpose.”
Smart technology makes light work
Producers can utilise smart technology such as computer applications to simplify maintenance. “They can inspect their own fences using this technology and inspect areas such as connectors (are they in good condition and functioning?) and insulators (are they cracked or not?).”
“This type of technology keeps expenses to a minimum as no physical inspections are necessary,” explains Mark.
James advises producers to adhere to the proverb: “A stich in time often saves nine.” Be sure to perform regular maintenance on your fences across the farm.
Fencing advice from the United States
The University of Tennessee in America developed guidelines that highlight certain aspects which can assist producers in maintaining their fences:
- Keep the wire tension tight – fences will naturally slacken over time. If using tighteners, check these reinforcements at least twice a year. Tighten other fences if necessary, or make small adjustments by making small kinks or creases in the wire using pliers, a hammer or special tools designed for this purpose. Splice broken wires when necessary.
- Repair or replace anchor posts whenever they show weak spots. Refasten loose wires to posts.
- Repair worn mesh fences – they can last for several more years by running an electrified wire on one or both sides of the fence. Fasten it to the old fence using offset brackets. These offset brackets are made from galvanised high tensile wire and are easily attached to the existing fence. It must be attached at two-thirds the height of the animals controlled by the fence. Preferably fasten it next to posts where it will be held more securely.
- Use herbicides or manual clearing to rid boundary fences of weeds and vines. Grass and weeds touching the wire can affect the fence’s effectiveness. An inexpensive fence tester must be used frequently to make sure the fence is functional.
- A carpenter’s apron is very handy for holding nails, staples and small tools while you work. A good pair of gloves, as well as a specialised pair of wire pliers are essential and a great investment for anyone involved in erecting or maintaining fences. – Susan Marais, Stockfarm
For more information, contact Mark Smit on 083 297 6079, Willie Clack on 082 574 2653 or James Faber on 083 292 2556.
Keep your windmill turning
There are many ways to extract water from the ground, but the traditional windmill or windpump remains the easiest and cheapest method. And if it is well maintained, it can perform at its peak for many years.
Johan Barnard of Southern Cross Industries, a company that manufactures windmills, says he believes a windmill should be serviced at least twice a year.