Building a Better Fence

Charles Kendall, a successful Blairsville, PA dairy farmer, became frustrated by the time-consuming and occasionally painful process of working with barbed wire.  So, when he started a fence contracting business in 1980, he decided to explore techniques to improve the efficiency of fence building.  Kendall recognized the advantages of high-tensile wire and hoped to make installation easier.  He felt that crimping wires together was faster and stronger than the usual hand-knotting process.  Soon Kendall was manufacturing and selling the crimp sleeves, and this was the beginning of Kencove Farm Fence Supplies.  Kencove is still headquartered in Blairsville, and now serves customers all over the world as a leading manufacturer and distributor of agricultural fencing supplies.  “Build a Better Fence” is the mantra that the now retired Kendall promoted, and it is what still motivates Kencove today.

Kencove’s most recent step in pursuit of “a better fence” was the purchase on May 1 of this year of Forester Industries of Nevada, Missouri, which distributes the PasturePro fence post.  For Kencove, the PasturePro post is a major advancement in post technology.  Made from a patented process combining wood and plastic, the PasturePro post is a lighter and stronger post, which contains no fiberglass or PVC and is organic certified.  Since 2005, the PasturePro post has been selected by industry professionals over metal t-posts and fiberglass rods.

On the cover of Kencove’s latest catalog, Product Specialist Hoss DeHaven appears in a four-photo sequence showing the flexibility and strength of the PasturePro post.  Hoss, a giant of a man, bends the post into an arc, then allows it to return to its perfectly straight position.  (Kencove does not recommend that people try to emulate Hoss’s experiment.)  Another demonstration of the post’s flexibility and strength is an internet video in which a large truck releases a round bale that gathers speed and then rolls over a section of fence supported by PasturePro posts.  In slow motion, you can see the posts bend back nearly to the ground, then spring straight upright to their normal position with no damage and no bend.  The patented process, which gives the posts their extraordinary strength, flexibility, and durability, involves an extrusion phase through which the posts are molded, followed by an orienting phase, which stretches the posts under heat.  This innovative oriented-polymer process creates a material that is twice the strength and half the weight of other wood-plastic composites on the market today.

The PasturePro post and the gritted crimp sleeve are obviously products of advanced technological engineering.  Kencove eagerly embraces technological advances in all of its products, and also in its business practices.  Marketing Coordinator Jake White showed me how he uses technology to monitor the effectiveness of the company’s advertising in print and online media and gauge the cost effectiveness of every ad placed.  Product Specialist Carla Castaldo demonstrated for me how the company processes phone and internet orders.  Like several other Product Specialists on the sales floor, she constantly monitors web orders while answering phone orders which she enters into a web form.  A click of a mouse shows the product availability at all warehouse sites (the company has warehouses in Earl Park, Indiana and Peculiar, Missouri, as well as at the headquarters in Blairsville, Pennsylvania), and another mouse click sends the order to the shipping floor of the warehouse best able to get the order delivered quickly to locations throughout the world.  Orders received by noon are typically shipped out the same day.  Kencove’s helpful website, www.kencove.com, has pages and pages of product and ordering information.  But one of its most appealing features is an extensive section of “how to” videos, many of which are produced in house by Jake White.  Topics include such basics as how to use a crimp tool or how to use a spinning jenny to dispense coiled wire, to more specialized topics such as how to install a corner collar insulator or a Jobe valve service kit.  The videos are destined to be helpful to farmers wanting to build a fence, whether they are Kencove customers or not.  Testimonials on the company’s website speak to the quality and ease of installation of Kencove products.  (For example, “This fencing is outstanding. Much better quality than I had anticipated. Very easy to setup and move. I would say out of the box to fence line took maybe 30 minutes…”)

A visitor to the company’s sprawling manufacturing floor, warehouses, and shipping rooms can’t help but be dazzled by the miles of wire on different sized spools, the bins full of crimp sleeves, the shelves heaving under the weight of boxes and jars, the looms, spinning jennies, and wire stretching machinery, and the constant flurry of activity as orders for wire, posts, energizers, cutting tools, wire strainers, netting, insulators, staples, screws, post drivers, gates, tensioners, collars, connectors, solar panels, and electric switches flow seamlessly from the internet or phone lines on the sales floor to the loading docks.

The emphasis on electronic technology is integral to the company’s product lines.  Kencove sells traditional barbed wire, but in its print and online catalogs declares that the company does not recommend the use of barbed wire because of the risk of injury to livestock and people.  Instead, the company promotes the use of electrified high-tensile wire, and all of the innovative technological advances that increase the efficiency and safety of electronic fencing.  The company sells solar panels to generate electricity and remote energizing and regulating units to optimize the efficiency of the delivery.  It uses a galvanized zinc coating for its premium high-tensile steel wire, which is guaranteed to resist rust for at least 20 years.  The company’s attention to details – details that enhance the efficiency of the whole fencing process – includes a time consuming factory procedure for spooling wire that reduces twisting and tangling for the installer.  An important component of the company’s product array is its line of post drivers which range from inexpensive hydraulic post drivers to large, super-efficient, nitrogen-fired drivers.

With all of this emphasis on innovation and technology in its product line and business practices, the company never loses site of its profound purpose:  the safe, humane, and efficient management of farm animals, and the most effective use of range and pasture land.  Kencove’s most recent catalog quotes extensively from a 1777 essay by Scottish agriculturalist James Anderson urging farmers to fence off their properties into manageable parcels so that grazing animals will not roam indiscriminately, and the parcels will have time to regenerate.  The Anderson quote is cited as part of a recent blog by Jim Gerrish of American GrazingLands Services LLC.  In Gerrish’s conclusion to his blog, he celebrates recent progress in fencing technology in words that echo and amplify Kencove’s focus on improvement, innovation, and efficiency.

“The real step forward that has allowed easy and cost-effective daily or more frequent paddock moves has been the continually evolving portable fence equipment. Easy to use geared fence reels, braided polywire, and durable step-in posts make daily moves a simple process, resulting in much improved pasture productivity, soil health, and livestock performance.  The basic soil-plant-animal relationship hasn’t changed since James Anderson’s time a couple of centuries ago, but the tools we have available to manage that relationship are infinitely superior today, thanks to advances in electric fence technology.”

Lacy Weimer, who manages kencove.com and troubleshoots in all areas of marketing and sales, has been working at Kencove for three and a half years.  She has an academic background in physics, and grew up on her family’s cattle farm near Blairsville.  Before joining Kencove, she developed a business with her twin sister to measure cattle productivity using ultrasound equipment.  She is about to install an additional 15,000 feet of Kencove high-tensile electric fencing, powered by highly efficient Kencove energizers, on her family farm to create 12 additional paddocks to increase the potential for rotational grazing.  For her, Kencove’s emphasis on technology to enhance agricultural productivity corresponds to her own professional and personal commitments.  “Kencove exists to advance agriculture in general.  We support agricultural efficiency with our improvements and innovations in the very basic agricultural need for fencing.  In today’s competitive economic environment, if farmers can’t farm efficiently, they can’t stay in business.  We are here to support them, their lifestyle, and the American farm economy.”

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