The Milton Freewater Junior Livestock Show attracts competitors and exhibitors from Walla Walla County in Southeastern Washington and Umatilla County, Oregon every year. It’s a chance for local 4-H and FFA members to showcase their talents in herdsmanship, cattle handling and other skills as well as exhibit sheep, goats, rabbits, hogs, and other small livestock.
Jon Dowling, a local fencing contractor, runs Jon’s Ranch Fencing in Walla Walla specializing in agricultural fencing work, “anything that requires animal containment”. He is also on the Board of Directors for Milton Freewater Junior Livestock Show and has taken a step back from his usual business projects to help local volunteers to prepare for the annual show.
Jon, 4-H volunteers and FFA members are working on a large community project installing a perimeter fence to prevent any animals from getting loose and on to the road.
“We are currently putting up a Noble Panels and Gates’ Contour Fencing to provide additional security and we are installing Noble Panels and Gate small animal pens for our sheep and goat barn. The pens are a galvanized wire mesh panel on a 1’ 5/8” frame.”
More renovations are underway at an old pole barn and soon volunteers will be putting up 13/48/2 high tensile wire around the perimeter and a four-rail painted wood board fence over the top of it.
“We will be using my Stockade ST400i stapler tools on this portion of the project. I’m looking forward to showing some of the volunteers what these stapler tools can do.”
“I don’t think people understand how easy running the Stockade stapler makes getting work done until they actually have it in their hands and are using it.”
Jon says as soon as he started using the Stockade stapler he knew it was the best tool to keep his fencing business growing.
“It has drastically changed the efficiency of how quickly I can get a job done. It saves time on labor. Everything is right where you need it and easy to maintain and adjust.”
Once the show work is complete, Jon will be taking the ST400i back out on a high tensile barbed wire fence job for cattle.
For Matt Schaefer, building up and equipping his Grasslands Solutions crew has been a standout accomplishment during his two and a half decades as a fence contractor in Cokato, Minnesota. It’s a long term focus that has helped Matt keep the business relevant for the times, production levels high and helped build a reputation of delivering large and small projects on time.
In 1998, Grasslands Solutions was a small family business, starting off building high tensile fence, then expanding into agricultural fence with local demand. After college, Matt and his wife Karin took over the company from his father. Grasslands Solutions now totals eight staff, including crew, an estimator and an office manager. They do agricultural fence and spec fence, mostly high tensile woven wire in a commercial setting.
“We are not doing things like we did when we first started. It’s been an evolution – and that is what makes work exciting. I think back to when I started, having to do so much physically. Now so much of this is done with mechanicalized equipment or apps in the office. I would say we are blessed to have tools and equipment to do the job and to use every day.”
Matt started with the Stockade ST315 battening tool shortly after it arrived on the scene. When the ST400 pneumatic stapler tool came out, he bought one of those, and he kept going.
“Fatigue is way down and the ST400i has made the installers’ lives a lot better.”
Matt Schaefer, Owner – Grasslands Solutions
“We still have both tools but use the ST400i cordless now. I would say we have six Stockade power staplers and we are pretty much fully integrated into the ST400i stapler tools. Fatigue is way down and the ST400i has made the installers’ lives a lot better. If you put two stapler tools on the line, in no time you can have a tremendous amount of fence stapled up. For me it is a psychological advantage just knowing how much faster the ST400i goes and the empowerment to the team of having something that is the fastest in the industry.”
No Need For Hammers
“We do have a couple of hammers, but there wouldn’t be a hammer for every man on the job because we just don’t utilize them like we used to. We have had 80 lbs of loose staples on the inventory going on four years now. At one point that was all we used.”
Matt recalls times when they were hand hammering and they wouldn’t finish projects. “We would run out of steam by the end of the day.”
Grassland Solutions Today
Matt’s focus on people and tools has allowed Grassland Solutions to set itself apart in the industry and building a reputation to manage and attract large-scale project
“We’ve recently completed a 30,000 foot job of woven wire for a commercial job which was more or less completed in one phase, followed by tree planting etc and finalizng gates. This job was brought to us because we have a reputation of being able to handle large footages and that derives from the tools and equipment.”
Here are a few things to look for when servicing your Stockade power stapler tools:
Keep parts tight
Screws and bolts on the magazine and nose should be secure but not super tight.
Staples should slide freely along the magazine
On the odd occasion, steel wear plates in the magazine can expand with heat causing staples to bind. There’s a simple fix to this. Take out the two wear plates, give them a slight squeeze with some pliers, and replace.
Lubricate the correct product for your stapler
When doing regular cleaning and maintenance work on your ST400i and ST315i, wipe and spray the coiled spring using a degreaser. Oil and CRC-type products tend to attract dust and grit – so try to avoid using these on your Stockade tool.
Quick reminder: The ST315 and ST400 models use different fuels. The ST400i uses a drier gas so there’ll be less oily residue.
A Focus on the ST315i
ST315i not working as you would expect? Here are some troubleshooting tips to get you going:
Keep your ST351i firing
At times, your tool might not fire, or might misfire. There can be a variety of possible causes. If your tool is not firing as you expect, here are some troubleshooting tips to get you back in action.
Do you have a brand-new tool?
When you fire up your brand-new tool for the first time, there can be an initial delay as the gas reaches the combustion chamber. If you depress the nose, down and up around 8-10 times without pulling the trigger, this will get the gas flowing through the system.
It could be your fuel cells
Expired, empty or cold fuel cells may be the cause. Cold fuel cells can lead to slow gas. A quick fix is to heat up the cells in your pocket or leave them in your vehicle overnight rather than in the back of the ute. Running out of gas is a classic reason why your tool is not firing. If you give the fuel cell a shake you might hear a noise and it is easy to think there is still a small amount of fuel left, but it may really be out of gas. Expired fuel cells are not a common reason for the tool not working, but if the cells are old then it may be the culprit. Check the date on the gas canister.
Is it your batteries?
Check they are charging correctly. Staple jams will also stop your tool firing. Open the nose cover and release the jammed staple.
Firing pin sitting slightly out of place might be the issue
After a service, cleaning session or clearing a staple jam, the staple nose firing pin can sit slightly ajar. The next staple will not move along into the correct position and the tool will not fire. Open the magazine, then use your finger or screwdriver to push the firing pin back into place. Similarly, when the magazine pusher assembly gets tired, this can prevent the staple pushing up into the firing chamber correctly.
A flashing red light on the handle of your tool lets you know your battery is flat. A constant red light on the handle is a sign that there is an internal issue, and you need to send the tool to a Service Agent for inspection.
Murray Graham entered the fencing world during holiday work between his senior years of high school. He stayed. Now, four years into a fencing career under the guidance of Tony White at White Fencing in Clevedon, the Stockade Ambassador is mastering heavy equipment and a variety of fencing systems. He says he can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I am using tractors, post drivers, skid steers. It is a whole other side of fencing compared with hand and wire work.”
For the most part, Murray says using the post driver and other machinery is about getting comfortable trusting himself and knowing where he can take the machinery and where he can’t. But he explains there’s also more to post driving.
“It is not just a mechanical process. You’ve got to plan the fence out, picking where the lines are going to go, and then lay out the fence and build it in the right place to a high quality.
“It is about managing a crew as well. Usually if you are on the post driver, you have others under you, and you’ve got to make sure that they are getting through the work and using the right systems on the fences.”
It’s not just about turning up
Murray says he is still working on aspects of this process. “Much of the time fence lines are dictated by Tony and the customer so I am working between fixed points. Reading the contour and the terrain as to the best place to put the fence is something that I can work on.”
“I enjoy post driving. It is more of a responsibility because it is up to you to keep yourself motivated, plan the work out in front of you, and look after the crew. It is not just about turning up and having the work out there waiting.”
Fence work continues to provide Murray with an everchanging scenery in some of the most stunning coastal and bush landscapes of the Auckland Province. He works regularly out on Āwhitu Peninsula and at Port Waikato in the West and all-around Clevedon and Orere Point past Kawakawa Bay to the East. The variety of projects provides good experience across fencing systems from horticultural structure work, standard rural fencing, and post and rail.
“Every job is always different, and whether it’s wire or post and rail, each fence systems requires a completely different approach and process. A lot of it has to do with planning and set out of the fence, laying out of material, and bringing the right gear so you are not tracking back and forth constantly.”
Looking ahead, Murray says he will be refining his technical and planning skills and expects greater experience managing a crew will be determined, in part, by attracting new people on board. His message to those thinking about taking up fencing is always the same.
Robert Littrell runs Sticks Fencing in Central Kentucky, the “Horse Capital of the World”. He says most thoroughbreds you see at the Derby and the horse races are born within a 30-mile radius
It’s no surprise then that equine fence, usually wire fencing with a board or Centaur on top or four-rail, keeps the staff of seven well occupied.
Robert says a problem is the labor shortage. “Typically, if you had ten people available, you only have five people now. With fewer staff, you are limited on what you can do. So, if you speed up a process, that is really going to help in the long run and be easier on your crew members.
Robert’s first tool
Robert bought his first Stockade tool about 10 years ago — the pneumatic ST400. Initially it didn’t get a good workout.
“My problem was my math. I thought, well, I could staple this fence a lot cheaper if I just bought a 50-pound bucket of staples. But I was too young to understand that the Stockade power stapler was saving me money by reducing the labor aspect.”
Sticks Fencing Today
Now Sticks Fencing has a pneumatic ST400 tool and two of the gas-powered ST400i cordless staplers.
Robert and his crew have just completed a three-mile project of equine fence using wire netting with a vinyl Centaur rail on top. He says the ST400i has really saved time on the job.
Rob says when building equine fence, the quality of fence and a good understanding of the livestock, particularly the safety of horses are key considerations.
“In the thoroughbred industry, racehorses, younger horses and mares are hot-headed. They like to run from one end of a paddock to another, so when it comes to equine fence, one thing that is not allowed is a square corner. All the fencing must be on the inside of the paddock and with rounded corners. That becomes an issue when stapling a post when you are in a curve”.
“You need to think how to make this work without the staples pulling. We have a good way of pulling our curves. Once we get to that point, we use the ST400i to push the wire in to make it tight…
That’s one of the most enjoyable things of the Stockade stapler, not having to use too much manpower to leverage the tool to push the wire in and staple it.”
High Quality Fencing
“From driving the posts, to pulling the wire and stapling, it all ties in together to make a high-quality fence. We are using an inch and three-quarter staple and use two staples in each post in our curves. We double up the staples to make sure the wire doesn’t pull out.”
While Kentucky is known for its gently rolling hills and green grass all year round, underground there’s a lot of rock. Out of the whole project of three miles, Robert and the crew drilled 60 four-foot holes through solid limestone.
Beyond digging and drilling holes, the crew need to be aware of underground utilities. They always call 811 before they dig.
Materials and equipment
Robert used 2400 Stockade staples, 48 rolls of Tornado 13/43/2 wire with 24 rolls 660-foot Centaur vinyl rail and 1980 6×8 inch brown line posts.
Drilling was done with a 279 Caterpillar skid loader with a rock drill on the side and post driving with a custom-built post driver on a Massey Fergusson tractor four-wheel drive with a loader.
Note:This article has been recently published in ISSUE 02 of the CORNER POST Magazine.
Stockade caught up with Otago local Ken Lake from Omakau as he was putting in rabbit fencing on a lifestyle block up the back of Ophir.
“The sun is shining and it’s a site hotter than the 6-8 degrees forecast. It is going to be a good day.”
Ken says there is nothing difficult about fencing in Otago.
“At worst, you just come across something that slows you down. It just takes time.”
Right at the beginning, Ken recalls his father teaching him the art of fencing, “the way he did it”.
New jobs = New ideas
“As you move to new jobs you pick up new ideas along the way. I have been to a few FCNZ conferences and it is quite amazing what you can pick up there and also from networking with different fencing contractors.”
Ken’s first fencing memory is as a youngster at Island Block, Millers Flat in the early ’60s.
“My father was down by the Clutha River with the farm worker putting a hole in the rock. They were using what they called a ‘tap-n-turn’. This was a crowbar with a chisel head. One of them would hang on to the crowbar, the other would hit it. They would turn, hit, turn, hit.”
The monotonous cycle repeated, and Ken recalls it taking a very long time to put two to four inches in the rock.
“It was one of those jobs that you would have liked someone else to do. By the time I was fencing we’d use a cobra rock drill to drill holes for waratahs to go in. It would splurt and cough, then stop. Now there’s the compressor that runs a rock drill and a air hammer, this is much improved on the cobra.”
A young shepherd
“I left school at 17 and worked for my father at Island Block, then went shepherding at Linnburn Station. From here I headed to work at Moa Flat. The beauty of working as a shepherd and then going fencing is that you have an idea of where to put a fence because you understand where the stock run.”
“The old station fences were built around the early 1900s and a lot of those are still standing, and we would go around once a year to maintain them and fix the broken wires after the snow had knocked them down.”
“Then around 1945, after the second world war, stations and farms were subdivided a bit more. This time using a six-wire fence with flat standards and a tin dropper. When fencers came to a rocky piece, where they couldn’t get it a hole in, they would bend the flat standard over and sit a rock on top, then thread the wire through.”
“By the early 1970s, my father bought Northburn Station. I spent the next 20 years there. Around a month a year was full-time fencing. Initially, it was splitting up the big blocks, and in the later years, by the 1980s, we’d come back to put rabbit netting on those same fences to control the sky rocketing rabbit population in the South.”
Otago farms’ most serious problem
Rabbits bred rapidly in Central Otago, where they enjoyed the perfect conditions of wide grasslands, high sunshine hours and low rainfall. Ten rabbits could eat as much pasture as one sheep, so fast working fencing contractors were in high demand. Plagues of rabbits were such a serious problem that they caused the financial ruin of many Otago farms. They are still considered as the Province’s most serious agricultural pest.
Ken recalls rabbit netting arriving in 50 metre rolls. “We’d be rolling them out by hand, joining them together, rolling them out, joining them together. Now, it arrives in 100 metre rolls. With the invention of the netting roller we can get it in 400 metre rolls, which can fit on the front of the tractor and rolls out when the tractor moves. The netting roller can also strain it once clamped to the required tension.”
Ken’s favourite part
In the past 10 years, Ken has seen new technologies such as the Stockade stapler tool, rock drill and air hammers, modern post drivers and battery powered tools dramatically ease the heavy physical demands of fencing and decrease labour hours.
Always on the job
When Ken reflects on more than 20 years’ of fulltime fencing in Otago, he says there’s only been about three days where he hasn’t gone to work because there’s been none. Work always turns up!
“I wouldn’t like to think how many kilometres of fencing I have done. We did about 100kms in Paerau, ‘The Styx’. That took us two winters.”