Stock panels are one of those common things universally found on nearly every farm across America. They come in several heights and lengths of varying wire placement marketed as goat panels, sheep panels, cattle panels, and so forth. These panels are usually used for either temporary or permanent fencing to keep livestock contained. We have a permanent catch pen assembled from wood posts, t-posts, and stock panels as I am sure many of you do.
This past year has found us with a long list of improvements needed a short supply of dollars to accomplish it all. Our first year here on the farm did not go entirely as planned. Just a few months after moving here we found ourselves in quit a situation. Within a 30 day period Andrew was laid off of his job of seven years, I found out we were expecting our third child, and we went from the owners of six chickens to the owners of 50 head of assorted livestock housed in temporary quarters while we fenced our unimproved land. It was time for some serious money crunching, and some good old fashioned country ingenuity!
While walking through Tractor Supply one day with our notepad and pen gathering prices for all of our assorted needs, an idea struck. Looking back, we are really not sure who first had the idea. It was one of those moments you see on the cartoons, where two characters look at each other and suddenly a light bulb pops up on screen. We had purchased a hay rack the previous week for $39.99, but it was only big enough to service one of our three pens holding hay-eating livestock. We needed at least two more, but didn’t have enough left in our monthly budget to purchase them. While standing there outside the store staring at the stock panels on sale, we knew exactly what to do! So we loaded up an extra twenty foot long stock panel for the sale price of $18.99 and headed home.
Andrew got straight to work when we got home. He started by cutting the twenty foot panel into four sections. Each section was then bent into the same shape as our other hay rack, think rectangular bowl shape only open on one end. The ends were filed down so they were not sharp, and several of the exposed bars were bent into hooks. These hooks were what hung the rack onto the fencing. These hay racks may not be as pretty, but they hold nearly double the capacity at a cost of $4.75 each! They can also easily be attached to a barn wall, and can be molded to fit inside the corners of stalls if necessary.
The hanging hay racks are great for the sheep. Most of our sheep are kept inside pasture with chickens, guineas, or turkeys so it is important that the hay be suspended where it is easily reached by the sheep but not so accessible for the poultry to perch on as this can get quit messy…..
A few months later we brought home a few piglets to place in our garden. We needed a shelter to keep the late summer heat off of them. Since the pigs were only going to be in the garden until they cleaned up the weeds and leftover plants, it could not be a permanent structure. At the time we only had two small piglets, so a single stock panel bent in an arch and anchored by four t-posts was sufficient. A tarp covered the top to provide shade.
We soon purchased another two pigs the same age, and moved all four into a larger garden. The single panel was no longer sufficient, so we added another panel, several more t-posts for support, a perimeter of hay bales to block the winter wind, and a larger tarp. The t-posts were extra from our summer fencing project, the tarp was an extra from my parents, and we had plenty of hay in the barn from our own cutting. So our winter pig structure cost us under $40.
This summer we ran into another serious dilemma. We are raising both sheep and pigs for meat. This requires occasional trips to the feed lot to sale sheep and to the slaughterhouse with pigs. Only problem is, we don’t have a good way to get them there! In the spring, we had relied on a borrowed truck and trailer to take care of our livestock hauling needs. This was getting quit expensive though, since it required an hour drive to pick up, another hour to take back, and lots of gas in between. We acquired “Ole Blue” the 1981 Chevy truck earlier this year. She’s a good farm truck, but not a good trailer hauler. My parents two horse trailer loaded with one cow caused her to repeatedly over heat earlier in the summer. So we needed a light weight method of hauling up to six head of sheep or pig at a time. We had talked about purchasing a light weight cage for the truck bed but after pricing them that was just not an option.
So once again Andrew set about some country rigging. We inherited a small trailer after Andrew’s grandfather passed away a few years ago. It was the perfect size for what we needed, only it didn’t have tall sides or a top.
By this point, when we needed to construct something we first thought “How can we do this with stock panels?” So once again, we headed to the store for two panels. Andrew borrowed a welder from a friend of ours, and in one afternoon he made a trailer topper with sides, a top, and a hinged door. It secures by U-bolts, and is removable when not needed. The topper cost $38, and the U-bolts were less than $9.
We have already used this twice and so far have had no problems. It seems to be the perfect solution for our short trips.
At the end of the year we found ourselves with an extra stock panel. I had just planted another two blackberries next to the two we planted last year. Last years plants grew beautifully, but the canes were weighed down and sagging. I thought it may be nice to have a trellis for them. We decided to take the extra stock panel, secure it with t-posts, and use it for a berry trellis. The holes in the panel are the perfect size for reaching through and I am sure it will make picking easier this coming year. I also plan to use these in the garden for peas and beans this summer. Andrew is currently designing his next stock panel project as we speak, a hay rack/feeder combo with removable feeders for easy cleaning for less than $70 to rival the $120 co-op version.
So this past year we found many alternative uses for stock panels, besides our normal fencing requirements. In our short time on the farm we have quickly learned the value of several useful items. Stock panels, portable electric fencing, tarps, and zip ties will always be kept in supply here from now on!
Have you found an alternate use for stock panels that we haven’t thought of yet? Please share them with us here or on our Facebook farm page “Ans Farms.” We would love to hear them!