After more than 100 years, Parker McCrory keeps charging ahead with new electrical fencing innovations

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

TRADITION AND INNOVATION WORK TOGETHER in carefully crafted coexistence at Parker McCrory Manufacturing in Kansas City, Mo.

Inside the unassuming brick building at 2000 Forest Avenue, doz­ens of workers fabricate, assemble, test and package the company’s Parmak electric fence chargers, using many of the same time-trust­ed methods that have given the brand an unmatched reputation for quality throughout its 100-plus-year history.

Meanwhile, in a neighboring facility across the street, state-of-the-art, computer-driven machines are building a new generation of circuit boards that will give Parmak electric fence chargers advanced capabilities.

Taking technology to the next level has been a hallmark of the company from the very start, said Dan Hummell, a 22-year Parker McCrory employee who took over as president in 2018 when his father-in-law, Ken Turner, retired.

“Through the years, Parker Mc­Crory has pioneered every major advancement in electric fencing,” Hummell said. “We were the first to introduce solid state technology in the late 1950s. We produced America’s first solar fence charger in the 1970s. Our solid state AC models, now referred to as low-impedance fence chargers, are safe to use with all the poly products in addition to all traditional fenc­ing. We like to position ourselves at the forefront of the industry.”

The company was established in 1921 by Harold Parker and Kenneth McCrory to make highly specialized farm radios and wind chargers under the Parmak label. In the 1930s, Parker McCrory turned its attention to the newly emerging concept of electric fencing, an effort accelerated by World War II when metal supplies were diverted to military needs.

“Parker McCrory was on the War Production Board and tasked with helping keep the food supply going here in America,” Hum­mell said. “Farmers and ranchers couldn’t get traditional fencing materials. Electricity is a way to stretch the fencing dollar. With a single wire, we can electrify a fence for livestock containment. Over the years, the demand for Parmak radios moved away, and fencing became our No. 1 product. It’s our passion, and we were right there at the beginning.”

The company is not only the world’s oldest but also the largest volume electric fencing manufacturer, now reaching 35 countries beyond North America. Parker McCrory’s Kansas City plant churns out more than 1,000 units a day, including solar, AC and battery-powered chargers in various voltages.

In 1999, Parker McCrory acquired Canada’s Baygard Electric Fence Products, adding even more options in chargers along with wire and tape, in­sulators, posts and other fence acces­sories. Whether it’s keeping 200 head of cattle inside a pasture or keeping bears out of backyard beehives, Parker McCrory’s wide portfolio of products can power all kinds of containment or repellant needs, Hummell said.

“The customer for electric fencing has evolved through the years,” he said. “We went from the family farm to commercial farming, and now we’re even branching into the hobby farmer and homeowner. Demand is high, and it’s growing.”

All Parmak-made fencers feature a three-year warranty that covers damage caused by lightning, and the special steel hous­ings of its solar chargers are guaranteed for life against rust. It’s not unusual to find Parmak fencers still working after 30 or 40 years on the job, said Scott Pace, Parker McCrory sales manager.

“We make the best electric fence chargers in the industry,” Pace said. “And they’re made right here, under our roof. We even source our components domestically as much as possible. We take the extra effort to ensure our chargers are quality prod­ucts that perform well and provide good value to the end user.”

The company’s commitment to using locally sourced, made-in-the-USA materials and its own hand-made components has helped Parker McCrory better withstand supply chain shortages and shipping delays that thwarted many manufacturers over the past couple of years, Hummell said.

“Being that most of our suppliers are domestic, we’re not run­ning into the issues of products stuck somewhere in a container waiting to be imported,” he said. “That’s also important in keep­ing up the quality side of it. If we have an issue, we can go back to somebody here as opposed to the other side of the world. We take that a step further by manufacturing our own printed cir­cuit boards and transformers. Every one of those parts is tested individually before it even gets to the final assembly. Quality control is our No. 1 goal here.”

The care doesn’t stop there, Hummell added. Every Parmak fence charger is tested before it leaves the factory.

“Not 1 in 10 or 1 in 100 is tested—100% of all of the fin­ished goods are tested,” he said. “Our failure rate is less than half a percent. We take pride in our precision.”

Parker McCrory’s dedication to innovation, integrity and cus­tomer partnering aligns well with MFA’s core values, said Allen Huhn, director of MFA Incorporated’s Farm Supply Division. That’s why MFA has carried Parmak products for more than 50 years.

“We put great faith and trust in Parker McCrory to make sure that their inputs and their fencers meet our specifica­tions,” Huhn said. “Along with that, it’s great to be made in the USA—and in this case, actually in our backyard. Most times we can place an order with them, and it’s just a matter of days or a week before we get the product because they are so centrally located.”

That stellar reputation helped prompt MFA to partner with Parker McCrory in 2010 to manufacture several models of fence chargers under the private Herdsman label. MFA Incorporated owns the Herdsman brand along with several other cooperative organizations.

“Since we’re a farmer-owned cooperative, Herdsman is actual­ly our members’ brand. It’s their own product line,” Huhn said. “You won’t find it in any of the big-box stores, only in our MFA and affiliated locations. We don’t put the Herdsman name on just anything—it has to be a product that is quality and built to last. We trust that customers are able to use Parmak products day in and day out and not have any issues.”

Likewise, Pace added, Parker McCrory prizes its longtime partnership with MFA.

“We’re really proud of the relationship we have with MFA be­cause they are grassroots cooperative that serves our end users right where they operate,” Pace said. “When MFA customers need their fencing, they need it now, and they need it to work. That’s exactly what we can provide.”

Allen Wright, who raises cattle and row crops near Curryville, Mo., counts on several solar-powered Parmak and Herdsman brand chargers to protect his cow/calf herd. He also recom­mends them to clients of his custom fence-building business.

“I’ve probably been using Parmak fencers in general for more than 20 years, and I’ve gotten along real well with them,” Wright said. “I even have an electric one that was my grandpa’s. I have no idea how old that fencer is, but it’s still going!”

Modernization of some of Parker McCrory’s methods is only going to strengthen the commitment to serving producers like Wright in MFA territory, Pace said. For decades, Parmak employees have painstakingly built printed circuit boards using through-hole technology in which leads on the electronic com­ponents are inserted by hand. With its new automated equip­ment, Parmak is transitioning to surface-mounted circuit boards that are assembled by machine.

“We’re going to be able to increase our capacity by about seven or eight times of what we currently can produce,” Pace explained. “That will bring us to market even faster, which is especially important in the times we’ve experienced over the past couple of years. The technology will enable us to come out with some new products and change the circuit boards easily through computer programming. It’s an exciting opportunity for us and our customers, and we can’t wait to introduce it.”

While technology will continue to reshape the way Parker McCrory products are built, Pace said it will not change what makes up the company at its core.

“The good thing about us is that we’ve got history,” he said. “We know how to build a rugged product that will last. If you walk around our factory, you’ll see employees who have worked here for decades, and that’s because they enjoy where they work and take pride in what they put on the shelves at the end of the day.”

To learn more about Parker McCrory and Herdsman electric fencing products available through your local MFA affiliate, visit parmakusa.com or mfa-inc.com/FarmSupply. To see a video of the manufacturing process and more, go to mfa.ag/fencers.