Tips for building good cable feedlot fence

Cable fence is a good option for building feedlot fence, but great care should be taken during the planning, purchasing, and construction phase to ensure that it works like you want it to. It’s pretty easy to get into a situation where you will not be happy with it in the long run.

I’ve put up a few strands of cable over the years, here’s my top tips for building good cable fence.

A long stretch of cable fence.

A long stretch of cable fence.

Strong ends make or break the fence

A key to cable fence is tight cables. The key to tight cables is an end brace that can hold it for decades.

Most of the fence I’ve built has been like the picture above: 1 big 4 1/2” (100mm) post that is either cemented in, or half driven and half cemented. and 2 2 7/8” (76mm) posts that are driven in. a set of braces and the top rail connect the posts to spread the load out.

This system has worked very well and I think the key is to spread the load out over several posts and have the top rail to support you. We have not had trouble with the post bending over because it’s a big post, the pressure is more the post pulling up and over. It seems that spreading the load out thru more then just the normal 2 posts is the best way to combat this.

Use good components, and install correctly

Use the proper size and number of wire rope clips (Crosby are the best) and if you can, consider using a part called a brace grip for the anchor end, these are stronger, easier to install, and look really sharp.

Use a brace grip on one end, then tighten the other end and tie off with wire rope clips.

If you use turnbuckles and springs, make sure they are big enough, don’t try to use ones that are too small, or they will break or come loose. Check out the links!

Keep it straight!

The top rail on long stretch of cable fence.

The top rail on long stretch of cable fence.

When you tighten a cable up, it will want to be perfectly straight. If you fence has a bow in it, the cable will fight with (and win against) your posts that are holding it in a curve. Take extra care to put your fence in perfectly straight. I like to use 17ga galvanized steel electric fence wire and some 300lb motorcycle straps. Make sure it’s not snagged on any rocks or weeds, and snap it from the middle a couple of times and it will be perfectly straight. Using top rail helps with this.

top rail

A top rail on cable fence helps with keeping it straight, adds a highly visual top to the fence, and looks sharp. I always used 2 7/8’ (76mm) posts with 2 3/8 (60mm) top rail. The 2 7/8 posts were notched with a mechanical press, but you can also weld a channel iron to the top to do the same thing, or notch them with a torch if you’re handy.

cold roll clips

One things that happens with cable fence is that the fat cows will rub against it a lot. Cable is pretty hard, so it tends to wear thru other materials. Oilfield pipe is also pretty hard so it’s usually not a problem, but the clips are. If you use cheap “hot rolled” rod for clips, the cable will wear thru in a surprisingly short time, especially with fat cattle. A solution is to use “cold rolled” 3/8 rod for the clips. They will last much longer.

Another little tip is to only weld the clips on on one side, weld it strong, but only on one side. This gives enough strength that it can’t get pushed off, but if you take a hammer to it, you can bend it over and break it off. This is especially nice for a piece of fence that you know you might be taking out some day, or if you aren’t confident in your clips and want to be able to replace them.

Don’t tighten it too tight!

Yes, you want your fence tight, but there is such a thing as too tight. If you use 2 ton chain pullers to tighten cable as tight as you can get it on a super hot day under the sun, when it cools off to -40, that cable will shrink and pull your end posts over.

You’re better off to leave the cable just at the minimum tension when you’re building it in hot weather. And if it’s cold, you can put it pretty tight because it will loosen up when it gets hot.

Getting your cable on wooden spools is much easier than working with open centered rolls.

Getting your cable on wooden spools is much easier than working with open centered rolls.

Cable Fence is a good deal only if the cable is very cheap, but of reasonably good quality. The labor in doing the installation can be significant. A lot depends on the skills of the crew doing the installation and the quality of the cable that you’re putting up.

Cable fence is reliable and strong, but the cables can break, especially when hit by equipment during the moving of snow. They are not maintenance free fences, though they are better than some other options.

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