Bale grazing works well when we can reliably exclude the cattle from bales and ration their access to fresh bales throughout the winter. We learned early on that trying to cross fence with step-in posts was not ideal since the frozen ground makes post insertion impossible without using a masonry bit, and later it makes post removal impossible until spring thaw. Frozen-in-place posts have a high probability of being destroyed when cattle use them as scratching posts after the electric fence wires are removed.
The better solution is to spear the posts into bales. I’ve been doing that for the last three or four winters, but I was never pleased with the 3/8 fiberglass posts I used. The cylindrical post shape is surprisingly hard to insert into tight bales. (I’ve noticed this before with bale spears: square profiles are easier to insert into bales than round.) The yellow screw-on wire holders are prone to popping off, causing the fence wire to drop to the ground. I was able to get five foot fiberglass posts locally. Six foot posts are available online, but they require LTL shipping so the costs get out of hand for small quantities. In either case, I wanted a longer post to ensure that the cattle couldn’t sneak their heads under the wire to nibble at the bales.
This year I fabricated some extended steel pigtail posts. I noticed this detail in the (well-made and highly-recommended) Alberta Ranchers’ Winter Grazing video series. I assume those posts were also custom-made, but perhaps there are some regional manufacturers who make them. I cut the feet off a bunch of generic farm store pigtail posts and welded on five foot lengths of 3/8″ square rod. I finished by sharpening the ends with a few quick cuts with the angle grinder. The new pigtail spears hold the wire at least four feet off the bales with good anchoring, good wire retention, and easy insertion and removal. I’ve been pleased with everything about these posts.
Well, I’m pleased with almost everything… The stack of 15 posts that I use to section off each row weighs just under 45 pounds. That’s not a hardship, but carrying them through the thick snow drifts that often form around bales might become a bit wearying. Still I’ll gladly take the extra weight if I can ensure that my fences keep the cattle where they belong.