MFA’s new Herdsman barb wire makes efficient, long-lasting fence
As spring weather clears, we can finally get some fence built. And if you’re going to the trouble to build a fence, it might as well be strong and long lasting. So I’d like to make your fence-building shopping list a little easier by explaining the difference between hi-tensile and low-carbon barb wire.
Low-carbon barb wire has been around for years—ever since barb wire was introduced. This barb wire is generally a 12 ?-gauge construction, Class 1 zinc coating with post spacing of 10 to 12 feet (about 3 or 4 mid-stride steps). Hi-tensile wire has a higher breaking strength, Class 3 Galvanization with post spacing up to 15 to 18 feet (5 to 6 steps).
It’s worth explaining the classifications of wire coating mentioned above. This rating tells us how much galvanization or zinc coating is on the wire. These wire classification standards are determined and certified by the American Society for Testing Materials. Class 1 and Class 3 measure the thickness of zinc coating on the wire. Generally speaking, Class 3 wire has 2 ? times more zinc than Class 1 and, respectively, will last 2 ? times longer before rust appears.
When I mention hi-tensile wire to the occasional fence builder, I often get a look of anxiety and a sideways nod along with an opinion about the difficulties of working with this wire.
But most of the time when someone mentions hi-tensile barb wire, the first thing that comes to mind is a smaller-diameter, springier wire—the kind of wire that, when it breaks, tears things up. I know this wire has caused nightmares for some fence builders. But, I believe that the main reason for their troubles is that this wire was overstretched.
The truth is that fence wire often ends up stretched too tight. You never want a fence to be “fiddle string” tight. When a fence is this tight several things happen. First, the memory is taken out of the fence, making it easier to break. Memory is what allows the wire to contract on the cold days and lengthen on the hot days, and here in Midwest, we can see that all in the same day. Second, the wire’s galvanization is stretched out of the manufacturers proportions allowing “stress cracks” to form within the galvanization. These cracks allow moisture to seep through the galvanization down to the wire core, which causes pre-mature rust. That weakens wire and leads to quicker failure.
So, let me introduce you to a compromise between these two types of wires—our Herdsman 14-gauge, hi-tensile. This wire costs approximately $6 per roll less than low-carbon barb wire and it delivers potential post spacing of 15 to 18 feet apart. This is a third fewer posts compared to low-carbon barb wire. On a quarter-mile, 4-wire fence, this would save about $100 in material costs, not including the savings of labor of driving a third fewer posts and tying a third fewer clips. Many contractors estimate labor at the same cost as fence materials. Therefore, this $100 savings quickly turns into at least $200 back in your pocket. And, the fence lasts 2 ? times longer than conventional barb-wire fence.
Even though this wire is hi-tensile, it ties very similar to low-carbon wire and does not have the wicked recoil effect of 15 ?-gauge barb wire.
From what I’ve seen of Herdsman in the field, it’s time to get rid of those low-carbon blues and put up Herdsman 14-gauge hi-tensile.
(Please follow local ordinances on number of wires and post spacing.)
Allen Huhn is manager of steel products for MFA Incorporated’s Farm Supply division.