Moving panels from pasture to pasture for penning cattle is a physically demanding task for ranchers.
Looking back seven decades and longer ago, cattle owners did not have steel panels for corrals. Most ranchers cobbled together catch pens in their pastures with wooden posts, woven wire fencing, and homemade wooden gates.
Dilapidated remains of those meager facilities are still in Flint Hills pastures. They get used occasionally with plenty of rusty baling wire helping hold them together.
Not that the idea was unique, companies started manufacturing steel panels in the late ’60s. Varying in design and strength, they were generally available in 10-foot and 12-foot lengths with some 16-feet long.
Before long, most cattlemen owned at least a few panels wondering what they’d ever done without them. The 10-foot panels were most popular for ease of handling as ranchers wired together corrals wherever needed.
With versatile uses, including patching fence holes or repairing water gaps, panels increased in use. They were quite handy for trapping and loading single wayward critters that needed to be moved to another locale.
There was always a need for more panels as purchases increased and panel-hauling trailers eased transportation.
Still, it was always a major strain on the body moving a dozen panels from one pasture to another. While longer panels are often used to build larger corrals faster, their extra weight is more exhausting.
For young cattlemen, moving panels doesn’t have the negative impact that it does on older ranchers. When panels must be moved to a dozen different pastures four times a year, it becomes a dreaded job.
Several years ago, portable corrals were introduced to ranchers who could pull them behind a pickup from pasture to pasture. Not many cattlemen initially purchased the convenient makeshift corrals, but they often shared them with their neighbors.
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of ranchers who now own portable corrals. While a substantial investment, it has finally been determined that reducing body wear-and-tear soon justifies the cost.
The ranch manager recently came pulling into the headquarters with a large heavy portable corral hooked on the pickup. He was excited to sharply reduce the labor required to manhandle individual panels.
Reminded of First Kings 12:4: “Reduce the hard work to lighten the heavy burden He put on us.”