A Farm Tour in Maine – Sebago Lake Ranch

In the course of time, I correspond with many people from all over the country. This is usually via email and cell phone. But, I do like to get out as often as possible to actually visit with some of the people, on the farm, that I have been in correspondence with. When the opportunity arose to tour the New England area I immediately contacted Ben Hartwell in Gorham, Maine.

Ben and I had written numerous emails regarding questions he had about our posts and about different ways to use them and install them – as well as general electric fencing options. He is a young man, a beef producer, and a fence contractor. Ben also has an Ag Business Degree from Cornell. He is a Gallagher dealer and uses primarily Gallagher products on his fencing projects.

Years ago he had started using Insultimbers as line posts. Although there were many things he did like about them, there were some things he didn’t. Then a few years ago Gallagher discontinued offering them. In a search to replace them with something of equal or better quality he came across our PasturePro posts. As with using most new products there is a learning curve and Ben had been thru that curve. We had become cyber friends and emailed each other quite often. I have a real genuine respect for young people in agriculture; that have ambition, desire and a willingness to learn / adapt to their own resources.

When I contacted him about a visit to his farm he welcomed me and we set a date to get together. I wanted to see his progression from his early fences to present day. He warned me that some of those early fences weren’t much to look at, but I insisted on seeing them all, if time allowed.

We spent the night in Windham, Maine and met for breakfast early the morning of Oct 15th. It was pouring down rain, cool and right down nasty outside. But, we had a great day and some of the photos that I will share will have rain drops on the images…but, that is life on the farm! We had talked about just touring the farms and doing his regular everyday chores…I was just tagging along with camera and a mind full of questions and comments.

Ben chuckles about his main farm having been commandeered by his wife and her horse operation, so his beef enterprise is located on rented farms around the countryside. So, we spent the day roving over two counties in Maine. We looked at some of his fences and some that other people had built as well.

Our first stop was a farm where he had some cow/calves pairs. The cattle were ready to be moved when we got there. This farm has some long narrow areas of pasture that he strip grazes through. His method of strip grazing was pretty much similar to the way we do it in the Midwest. He uses poliwire on Gallagher reels and pigtail posts for cross fencing. He energizes the forward fence with a portable solar charger, but leaves the rear fence not hot and leap frog’s new fences forward as he moves.

His water source is a 1” HDPE water pipe on top of the ground – in the fence line to the right in the photo above. He has Plasson Quick Coupler Valves located at each paddock move. The small plastic tub is tipped over and moved to the next paddock and reattached to the next coupler. He also has a mineral feeder that he has modified with a pull rope. He can move both mineral feeder and water tank easily by hand.

Now, this is what you like to see when you make a paddock move, “Cattle with their heads down grazing.” Ben’s cows are primarily Hereford that he has been using Red Angus bulls on. He hopes to try some Pharo bulls in the future and has a young bull prospect that he was right proud of and I liked the look of also.

 

His water tank is fitted with a garden hose extension to hook up to the quick coupler and he uses a Jobe Valve with float for shut off control. He also uses the hose to pull the tank when he moves it. This is a very simple and economical watering system that has worked very well for Ben. He says he can use this above ground system up until around the first of November in his part of the country.

I liked the mineral feeder he uses. It is a Sioux body with a special flap on top that has a container for liquid pesticide that wicks into the felt on the underside of the lid. I believe he said it was made by Brower. The cattle treat themselves as they get mineral. It looked very durable and a very simple solution that was economical and easy to move with the simple pull rope.

The next farm we visited had calves on it. These are going into his direct market beef program. The watering and mineral feeder system was similar to the earlier farm. The calves looked to be in excellent shape, good natured and ready to move into the next paddock with their heads down grazing. Ben uses a plastic insulated handle to lower the three hot wires down to step over. (His crotch is a little higher off the ground than mine)

Poly-wire reels, for his strip grazing cross fences, are hung off the top wire of the 3 strand cross fence and at a PasturePro post.

 

 

 

 

Pictured here is a lightning diverter system that Ben had designed and built using PasturePro Posts. It includes a Gallagher Lightning Diverter, a cut out switch for adjustment, and an induction coil that he fabricated using PasturePro Post material. The posts materials were drilled to hold the coiling of the high tensile wire. I had never seen one quite like this one, but it makes a lot of sense! (Sorry about the raindrop on the lens. It was a very wet day…..)

I’ve heard an old saying to “build a fence where it needs built.” Well, I guess the photo to the right is a prime example of that. In this part of Maine there are lots of old stone walls. Since much of Ben’s operations are on rented land and landowners normally want to maintain these old stone walls. He has chosen to build right up to them.

 


I hate to brag, but man, this is a great photo that had to go into this article. I love it! People from all over the country ask me all the time if you can drive our posts into rocky ground. Well, the story here is that Ben uses a rotary hammer drill to drill post holes in this rocky Maine terrain. Yes, in fact I think they may have more rock than we do in the Ozarks. If he needs a post about anywhere he can put one in. Ben does drive some posts with a regular post driver. He also uses a pilot driver some of the time and in extreme places he will use a rotary hammer drill with a long bit. He has recently purchased a new Vector Hydraulic post driver and will be making a special rock spike for it to pilot holes thru rocks for PasturePro posts. I asked for a photo of that.

Ben needed some offset brackets and this is what he came up with. I accused him of stealing this idea from me, but I am glad to see that he has been reading some of the stuff I have written over the years. Anyway, this is just another unique use for a PasturePro post. You can use a spade or forsner bit to drill a hole in the tree and then drive in a length of Pasturepro Post. For wire attachment he simply used a barbed steeple driven into the end of the post. Who says post have to be vertical? (Lee Valley Hardware also offers a Greenwood bit that is made for drilling green wood without over heating)

Pictured to the right is a five strand sheep fence that Ben built for one of his customers. This is on an organic farm in which they manage a variety of livestock enterprises along with produce. Of the five strands of wire, three are electrified and two are ground wires. You can see which ones are electrified by the wood post insulators on the wood post. This fence used 1-1/8” x 54” posts in the Hickory color. I was pretty impressed with this fence. It is very straight and well built. The insulators on the wood posts are Gallagher Claw Type that is screw-on, nail-or staple on

Pictured to the right is the last farm that we visited that day. It had already been grazed. The cedar PasturePro post in the center stands as a sentinel overlooking a well drained and gentle sloping landscape. It has provided its bounty for the year and ready for a little rest. I thoroughly enjoyed my day with Ben Hartwell. He was as genuine in person as he sounded like in his emails and a fantastic host. Although we were both wet to the bone from a day in and out of the rain we managed to get dried out and picked up our wives for an evening of fine dining. The choice was “Buck’s Naked BBQ” in North Windham, Maine. Wow, what a slab of ribs!

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About Gary Duncan

Gary has been active in the fence business for over 15 years. He also raises Highland cattle in a management intensive grazing system and was the first person to market the PasturePro post back in 2005. He enjoys discussing all things grazing and is the main contributor to the blog.
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