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Oilfield steel rod put to pasture

DRAYTON VALLEY, Alta. – Innovative farmers have been using scrap steel produced by the oilpatch for years. Around Drayton Valley, posts made from oilfield sucker rod hold up much of the area’s fence wire.

“Around here, sucker rod posts have been used for probably 40 years. But the twisted nail (to hold the wire to the post), which we use now, I think it was about 1980 when it came into play. Before that, there was all kinds of other things used,” said Bob McLeod.

“I don’t know exactly who invented it, but at one point nearly every farmer around here was building their own. We decided we’d see if we could sell these things.”

In the mid-1990s, McLeod started manufacturing and selling sucker rod fence posts through his farm-based One Time Fencing Company near Drayton Valley.

“We build a fence post that takes the place of a conventional wooden post. They can be built for three, four or five wire, whatever the customer needs,” said McLeod.

“You pound these into the ground, tighten your wire up, snap the wire into the nails, then turn the posts with a little pipe wrench to lock them off.”

McLeod buys the sucker rods from oil companies. When they arrive, they have 10 scrapers on each rod to hold the rods inside the tubing. McLeod’s business cleans them all off.

“Sucker rod all screws together, so we have to cut the thread ends off all of them, as well. They come in 24 foot lengths of working material after we get them trimmed up. We only sell six and eight foot posts, for that reason.”

Once the scrapers and collars are removed, McLeod welds specially bent nails on the posts. The nails hold the wire to the post.

“It’s a complete pigtail curl, just about all the way around, with a twist. The nails are all prebent with a bender we’ve designed, then welded onto the post afterward.”

McLeod accommodates requests for a range of fence styles.

“Three, four or five wires are all common uses. Some guys only have a three wire fence, so we build them to fit their fence. Some want a five wire fence so we build to fit that. The type of spacing you want on the post, whatever you want, we can do,” he said.

McLeod tells customers the steel rod posts will do everything that a wooden post will do except rot or burn.

Because most of the rods are three-quarters of an inch in diameter, McLeod said the ends don’t need to be sharpened and they’re easy to install. Post pounders, post mauls or tractor buckets can be used to push or pound the sucker rod posts into the ground.

“You can take half a dozen of these and a slide hammer or sledge hammer and run out to fix a fence in an emergency. You don’t need to get your tractor going to pound a conventional post,” he said.

“They’re also easy to put in during the winter. You can pound them with short strokes or drill a hole with a cement drill and plop them in. Once the wire is hooked in, you turn the post and it locks onto the post.”

McLeod said a six foot post will typically go in the ground about 22 inches. That provides a four foot fence. An eight footer is usually used for a five foot fence, commonly used for buffalo because the post will go in the ground three feet.

Producers who choose the eight foot post for cattle usually get them because the fence is on soft ground and they put them in the ground four feet.

“There’s many kinds of page wire so we don’t prebuild for all of them because there’s too many. If you wanted to put up a page wire fence, you’d have to do a measurement on your fence and tell us where the horizontal wires are and we’ll match it,” said McLeod.

The posts have been used to fence in sheep, cattle and buffalo. McLeod has sent them as far north as Whitehorse, east to Selkirk, Man., and west to Vancouver Island.

“We’ve had excellent success with them standing up. The only place we’ve had trouble with them tipping over is a real sandy soil. And those guys tell me they can’t make other posts stand up in that stuff either. So if there’s any ground at all, there’s not a problem.”

On his own operation, McLeod started using sucker rod posts to fence in his beef herd.

“We fenced government lease land with them. Their biggest asset out there was they were easy to put in. Forestry doesn’t like you to cut big fence lines,” he said.

“And wild game seems to jump them more than other ones. We didn’t have as many broken top wires as we used to get with a conventional fence. There’s some spring to this fence and there’s something with it that they just don’t break as much. In the eight years we had that lease land, we never had a broken top wire.

“When we sold our beef cattle, we fenced our place for buffalo and that’s all we use for fence posts. We use page wire on our own place.”

McLeod said most sales are made by the pallet, which holds 150 posts. But he will sell individual posts, too.

“We price them consistent, for one or 100. This January, that was $4 a post for a six foot, in Drayton Valley. Eight foots are $1 more. That’s up to four nails. After that, we charge a bit more. We have to date sold 400,000 of them. What that tells me is they are working.”

For more information, contact Bob McLeod at One Time Fencing in Drayton Valley, 877-542-4979.

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