For many years, barbed wire has been a staple helping ranchers keep their livestock in. You can see the fencing for miles and miles when you drive through rural America. But what happens when the barbed wire is left abandoned and unattended? It becomes dangerous.

Animals can become entangled and suffer cuts that may lead to an infection. Cattle could ingest a piece of wire, causing hardware disease—a serious issue in their intestines and stomach. People risk getting scrapes and cuts that lead to tetanus.

Bekaert Fence Pro Van Medley had a personal example of the dangers to tell. “We received a horse that got damaged fence wrapped around its hoof,” Medley said. “Still rideable, but it injured the tendons in its lower leg and made the horse lame.”

That is why proactive fence maintenance and the proper disposal of old barbed wire are vital. Medley shares ways you can do both to keep animals and humans safe.

When To Do Fence Maintenance

Medley encourages producers to check their barbed wire fences multiple times a year. “I ride my fence line every time I move cattle,” Medley said. “So two to three times a year for general maintenance. Then if a storm moves through, I’ll do a ride through after to see if there was any damage to the fence.”

So what exactly do you need to look for when checking the fence? “Watch your braces and connections at posts,” Medley said. “If you start getting slack in your lines or broken/damaged sections of fence, you need to do maintenance or replacement depending on the age of the fence. Also, check for posts starting to rot or damage in the wire.”

If a repair needs to be made, Medley recommends Gripple wire joiners. “They can splice wire back together really quick, and you don’t have to worry about getting cut or scratched. Plus, they’re a long-lasting fix.”

Disposing old fencing materials properly

When old fencing materials are ready to be disposed of, Medley encourages people to take their old wire to their local scrapyard. “We haul it to a metal yard where they can cut it up and melt it down,” Medley said. “It’s the best option. In a landfill, the wire is going to last a long time and could pose ongoing risks.”

Medley discourages two disposal methods: piling it up and burying it. “I know some people pile it up with the intention of hauling it off later,” Medley said. “But it’s one of those if you wait, do you get back to it?”

Other risks of leaving untended wire are potential harm to curious kids and equipment damage. “If you get it tangled in a cutter or in a tractor it can be a real problem,” Medley said. “That will cost you quite a bit of money if it gets entangled in equipment and busts a gearbox.”

Hiring Fence Removal

But what if you work an 8 to 5 job and are struggling to find time to remove the old fence on your property? Or you inherited some land with old, untended barbed wire on it. What can you do?

“If you’re limited on time, you can get contractors to come in and take out the old fence,” Medley said. “The great thing about doing that is they often have the equipment and they can level up the ground once the fence is removed. A general handyman can come in and do this as well.”

Another option is to put up new fencing and take the old out later. “If you are constrained on time, you can go ahead and build a new fence over a couple of feet from the old,” Medley said.

“It can be challenging to put the new fence up working around the old, but then you can take the old fence out at a later date. Turn it into a two-weekend job. Just make sure your braces are still in great condition as braces are the backbone of your fence project.”

Looking for advice on fencing?

Medley and the Bekaert Fence Pros are available to answer questions about wire and putting in a new fence. Bekaert also offers various products for fence maintenance.

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