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Farming and ranching can be tireless work. With long hours and endless chores, when something breaks or you need a quick solution, you’ll use whatever resources you have on hand to get the job done. To help you save time and money around your farm or ranch, we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks to make life easier on the range.
While there is no such thing as a perfect tool, fencing pliers get pretty darn close. Fence pliers are a multi-tool that can be used as a hammer, wire cutter, wire twister, clamping and crimping tool, or as a claw to pull loose nails or staples. This all-around tool is great to carry when you’re out in the field checking fences or working on everyday projects. The cutting jaws are strong enough to cut right through nails or fencing wire and won’t get damaged like regular wire cutters, which is why they are great for mending fences. Having them on hand will make sure you can pull any dangerous staples or nails sticking out that can hurt your animals.
Don’t throw out the baling wire you take off your hay bales! It’s one of the easiest items to repurpose and has endless uses. Keep baling wire close by to temporarily tie a gate closed if the latch breaks or to close a hole in the fence while you run and grab the fencing pliers. It’s soft enough to bend, but strong enough to hold fast when pressure is applied. You can use it as a breakaway tie, or to tie loose items together and stay organized. Make sure when you are storing you wrap each piece up individually, otherwise you will have a tangled mess when you need a piece of wire.
The benefits of having a pocket knife handy are endless – that’s why most farmers and ranchers wouldn’t be caught without one. A nice trick is to get your knife in bright colors so that if you drop it in a field of tall grass, you can find it easily. You can also use your pocket knife as a makeshift screwdriver in a pinch. Pocket knives can be used all over the farm to open feed bags, remove possible splinters from fence boards, or even to peel an apple when you get hungry in the field. Just make sure you keep your knife sharp with a knife sharpener; a dull knife can be just as frustrating as not having one altogether!
If you have leftover PVC pipes from an irrigation project, repurpose the scraps to make life easier around the farm. PVC pipes make great chicken feeders and wire cages for plants to grow on. You can also use them as tool storage to hold large tools like pitch forks or shovels. Create a chicken tractor by connecting PVC to make a frame and wrapping chicken wire around it to protect your flock from hawks or other predators while they forage. Regardless of how you use it, it’s always a good idea to have a few sizes of PVC on hand in case of a pipe break or other miscellaneous tasks that may arise.
Animals can be messy, especially around water troughs, hay rings and gates. Using fine gravel or alternating layers of gravel and geotextile fabric allows the water to drain. Be sure the gravel you choose is less than 3/8” or else it may be uncomfortable for your animals. It’s also important to be mindful of where you place water troughs, avoid low lying areas that may have drainage issues.
Float valves are an easy way to control your water level. While they won’t keep the animals from splashing the water out, it can prevent overfilling the trough. Since it automatically fills the trough to the correct water level, you don’t have to worry about if your animals have fresh water, saving you time and energy.
Ratchet straps have many more uses than just tying down supplies when headed home from the store. You can use them to secure odd-shaped items like firewood or fallen logs. You can also use them to secure hay bales on the trailer when you bring them in from the field. They can be used alongside tarps to protect valuable equipment when it’s raining, and they come in handy when your tractor gets stuck in the mud. If you’re in the middle of a woodworking project but can’t find your clamps, you can use tie down straps as a clamp replacement. The ratchet system allows you to pull your wood together and secure it until the glue has dried. For storage, use ratchet straps with a pulley system to store large items off the ground. This combination frees up space on the ground while still giving easy access to everything you need. It’s easy to get creative with the ways you can use ratchet straps on the farm, just make sure you use one that has the strength rating for the job you are trying to accomplish.
While there are countless other ways to repurpose items or tools, these hacks can save you a bit of time and stress around your property. Farming and ranching is tough work - make it a little easier for yourself!