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  • Writer's pictureConcrete Posts and Pickets

Why would you buy a concrete post?

Updated: Jan 9

The answer to this question lies in considering the choices farmers have available to them when it comes to their next fencing job.

Let’s take a quick review of the choices available to farmers and the costs associated with these choices.

By far the most popular post currently used in Australia is the star picket.

Why is this so?

Well, the answer to this question is best described by a fast food example.

Why is fast food so popular, McDonalds, KFC, Hungry Jacks etc..

Is this massive switch to fast food which has been sweeping the country for the past 20 years, due to the fact, that fast food is good for us, in the short or long term?

Probably NOT !!!! But it tastes great most of the time.

Then why does it happen??

It’s a matter of convenience, taste and speed of delivery!!!

This is a well established fact.

This fast, ‘get it now doctrine’, is well researched and it covers a multitude of products and services.

As with all fast food, there is a sting in the details, that is usually overlooked by the masses.

Fencing post products are no different, in this regard.

Poor health is the sting in the tail, of continual eating of fast food.

A massive and regular refencing cost is the sting in the tail which comes from using a cheap fence post at the time of a fence erection.

Usually, we as humans are driven by pain or pleasure, hip pocket pain is a real hurt, in this case for the farmer who uses a post that will last less than 20 years and in some soils a great deal less, hip pocket pain becomes a real big deal.

During the course of my 65 years on earth, I have seen the introduction of the star picket into the fencing industry and I have seen its progression from a strong quality steel product to a very different lite weight product that is quite easily broken and which rusts off very quickly in most soil types, that are not P/H neutral, or close to neutral. In many instances I have witnessed the star picket rust off in under five years.

In a real life case study in The Barcaldine area of QLD, a farmer had purchased a very big block and fenced it in the years 1985 through to 1989. Along with many other improvements he carried out. At the time of the case study the original star picket fence posts had been in the ground approximately 22 years on average. About two thirds of them were approaching end of useful life. {rust} Which incidentally meant that the whole lot needed to be replaced, wire and all.

At the same time the family now had two sons who wanted to have a go at buying a neighboring farm.

Here is the kicker!!

The money it took to re-fence the original block was near as damn it, the same amount that it cost to buy the next property!!! True story.

Fencing is a massive cost these days.

If you are minded to buy a star picket for your fencing, then do yourself a favour and buy a picket post from Endura Post. These posts will last in any soil and they will take a fire up to 350 degrees and not burn. However, they need to be blended with a concrete post to add a bit more guts to the fence, having said that they are a mile ahead of the star picket in terms of life expectancy.

So in my opinion, the only way to make any farming decision is to factor in the life time costs of whatever it is that you are undertaking. This applies to genetics in bulls and usually we don’t buy the cheapest tractors for this same reason. The choice in fence posts should be no different, agreed.

Look at the utilities we buy, not usually the cheapest, this is because we want our new ute to last the distance. Cheap imported brands don’t get a look in as a working, float towing ,load hauling, rough road travelling farmer owned ute!!!

BUT, when it comes to one of our biggest farm investments, fencing the farm!!

It would appear, that as a nation, we tend to choose the cheap option!!

Consider the following.

Australia uses, so they say and accurate figures are hard to find, about 14,000,000 star pickets per annum.

When talking to rural stores about 85 percent of these posts are in fact replacing existing fences where very old wooden fences have rotted off or the white ants have eaten the wooden post off or for the most part steel star pickets have rusted off and the fence is falling down.

Hard to believe but true non the less.

These posts come into Australia because we as farmers buy them. In many cases farmers do this believing against everything their gut is telling them, that they will last a long time on our property when we know for certain they don’t last very long on other

people’s properties.

With a shrug of the shoulders, they say what other choice do I have?

And besides all this, there is peer support, the local rural store sells a lot of pickets, which means lots of other farmers are buying them, so……….

So, we ask the question again.

Why would you buy a concrete fence post?

The answer is because they last longer than the ute, the tractor, the shed, the plough and longer than you and me.

This means that the gap between re fencing is going to be governed by the life span of the wire and not the life span of the post!!

The fact is that concrete posts are a real long term farm asset, this is an important matter, when the valuer comes to value the farm for whatever reason, maybe you are buying stock for restocking or maybe the boys have talked you into backing them into another farm. Banks take the conditions of the farm fences, sheds, plant, water reserves and delivery systems and the up and coming replacing of the same into account. This

affects the property value considerably, it also restricts the borrowing capacity of the new buyer of your property, when they are arranging finance.

What about a timber post?

Right across Australia it is recognized that the sourcing of quality timber posts is getting more and more difficult.

A large portion of the big old trees are being protected by law as habitat or future habitat trees. EPA enforcement is strong and the fines are very high for the slightest offence.

The price being paid by sawmills for good quality timber is making it very difficult to be able to use these trees as posts.

When a mill is paying up to $400-00 per cube for the top hardwood species, that would last well in the ground, it makes the post that would potentially be cut from these type of tree’s very expensive. So, what is happening, is that posts are being cut from small and immature trees that have not had the time to grow old and hard or from nondurable species.

The cell structure inside of these young trees is not hard and tight and as a result water ingress into the wood causes decay at a rapid rate.

Apart from all this, the problem with white ants has seemingly increased at an alarming rate in the areas where the fantastic narrow leaf iron bark timber grows.

We are seeing posts being cut from young narrow leaf iron bark trees and the three cornered shape of these posts, means that there is only three or four posts being cut from one length of round tree trunk.

The combination of young trees and white ant, proliferation is fast turning the iron bark post into a position of marginal use and less in terms of life span as a fence post.

What about treated pine posts?

Over the many years that treated pine posts have been available in Australia, they have never been very popular in the sphere of rural fencing.

Why is this so? They are readily available and they have long life properties.

There are several reasons for this phenomena.

One reason is, they begin to crack open in a length wise fashion as they dry out in the very dry, lower rainfall areas. They also get somewhat brittle at the ground line in areas of high rainfall as the treatment is washed out of the small pine trunks. This is especially evident in the vineyard industry.

Then when it does rain, the water goes in and the treatment that gives the post it’s long life properties, is washed out. They call this leaching. Another negative factor is the effects of the treatment which is a combination of copper, chromium and arsenic poison, causes the fence wire to rust more rapidly than it would in the absence of these poisons. The wire doesn’t degrade as quickly if the post is only treated to H4 standard, but for long life in ground a treatment quality of H6 standard[marine grade is best suited to getting a real long life] When your farm is fenced with quality concrete posts the valuer will give fencing an automatic tick of approval, when valuing your property. This happens because it is well known that the concrete post is a real lifetime fence product.

The fast growth in the use of concrete posts is evident to all because of these longlife factors.

The fact is that when viewed using a lifetime cost, benefit analysis, there is no cheaper fence than a concrete fence post fence.

On top of all this, the extra value put on your property at the end of your ownership, will be appreciably higher than what it would be if the farm is fenced with cheaper posts that have maybe two thirds of their expected life already past, at the time of selling of the property.

The younger generation is switched on in terms of what property maintenance will cost them in the first 5/10 years of them owning a new farm.

Fencing ought to be viewed as a farm asset rather than a farm maintenance issue. Cheap fence posts, like cheap ploughs, tractors, trucks, bulls etc… create a maintenance cost and performance issue. Quality long life posts are an asset, rather than a liability.

All of the above sentiments should impact and be factored in, when next you make a decision about what fence post you will invest in as a real long life farm asset.

N.B: Concrete posts don’t rust, rot or burn

For further information about fencing in Australia contact the writer.

Doug Leadbeatter 0422 676 725

Office 0458 833 051

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