Wire Gates

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The classic wire gate; in this case, the back gate into the big pasture.

The classic wire gate; in this case, the back gate into the big pasture.

Fences need gates, which seems a little obvious, but it’s a more complex issue than it first appears. Wood is plentiful in many places and barbed wire is relatively inexpensive. Barbed wire was also heavily used back in the days when the open range (which in many cases on the windswept plains meant few trees) was being fenced in. Fences in these areas were often built from corner “posts” of wire cages filled with rocks. While they work well, it’s impossible to hang a standard gate from this kind of corner post. Wire gates are used all over the world, which may be why they have so many different names. I’ve heard them called Texas gates, New Zealand gates and Portagee gates in the US. The British use the term Hampshire gate, while Aussies call them cocky’s gates (cocky is the Australian nickname for farmers). In New Zealand itself, they’re called Taranaki gates, and in Ireland, the wire gate is known as a slap.

Small ranch hands about to open the gate to feed; you can see the gate past the shoulder of the smallest one.

Small ranch hands about to open the gate to feed; you can see the gate past the shoulder of the smallest one.

Looking through the open gate; branch lever on chain to the left.

Looking through the open gate; branch lever on chain to the left.

A regular “built” gate, whether of metal or wood, needs hinges and usually needs a higher and larger gatepost and some sort of wire stays to keep it from sagging. As a result, wire gates are common in the West, especially in areas where you don’t need to go through them too frequently. They are also handy because you can make them considerably wider than a conventional gate, and since you’ve already got the wire and staples at hand for fence building, you don’t need to cart along extra material – a boon to building fence in distant pastures. They don’t require the kind of precision you need in building a wood gate. The average steel livestock gate costs well upwards of $100 for something inexpensive, so a wire gate is a moneysaver as well.

Gates like these are handier for working livestock. When opened to the rear, they form a handy alleyway to move critters from one pasture to another.

Gates like these are handier for working livestock. When opened to the rear, they form a handy alleyway to move critters from one pasture to another.

A metal gate like this is better for a corral.

A metal gate like this is better for a corral.

They have their disadvantages. Since they don’t swing on hinges, you may need more than one person to keep hungry stock back as you open the gate. They are floppy, which can make them a little hard to handle – unlike a wood or metal gate, you can’t open and close them from horseback. One of the biggest difficulties with wire gates (at least from the ranch wife’s point of view) is that they are all too often built by males with more upper body strength than the female of the species happens to possess. That makes them hard to open and hard to close. A cheater bar of wood or metal on an attached chain helps supply the necessary leverage, but you still have to be able to get the upright close enough to the bar to hook it in place and supply leverage. My handy hubby built this to solve the problem.

Classic cheater bar for a wire gate.

Classic cheater bar for a wire gate.

In its previous iteration, this gate simply had a wire loop attached to the gatepost; hard for me to pull the smaller post close enough to slip the wire over the top.

In its previous iteration, this gate simply had a wire loop attached to the gatepost; hard for me to pull the smaller post close enough to slip the wire over the top.

Rotate the handle to tighten the loop of cable; this takes all the strain off your arms and chest.

Rotate the handle to tighten the loop of cable; this takes all the strain off your arms and chest.

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