Innovation Nation: New products to make life easier on the ranch (and rancher)
In an industry as old as time, constant updates and innovations hit the market in the hopes of creating an easier user experience. Often single families or a couple are responsible for solely running the business, so products that are more efficient can make a world of difference.
If you’ve operated double gates, you’ve probably dealt with wrapping chains, wire, or baling twine over and under and around to try to keep the gates sturdy and secure. Most likely, your efforts still resulted in sagging gates over time.
Brad Fredrick came up with a solution four years ago to avoid those common gate issues. GateHands securely and easily latch together two overlapping or two side-by-side gates or a single gate as well.
“I was working for a feedlot, and I pretty much finished my job there, so I was doing some odd and ends jobs. One was fixing these gates; they were real long and heavy, but they were hanging there and working just fine,” Frederick said. “I put a chain on them, but it was kind of a hassle, so I came up with an idea where they interlocked themselves.”
The design allows for users to operate the latch from the ground or horseback and is easy enough for children who can reach the installed GateHands to operate.
“We have a video of my younger son, who’s 8 years old, opening and closing them; they’re easy for anyone above the age of 5 or 6 as long as they are tall enough to take that pin out of the top,” said Kelsey Wagner, Fredrick’s daughter and GateHands sales manager. “A lot of elderly people that say it’s easier to mess with than chains or baling wire. We also sell a lot to people who use them for rotational grazing.”
Fredrick installed GateHands on his fences at home about three years ago, and he said they remain clean and straight. “I can’t imagine not having them,” he said. “A lot of people like their stuff to look good and be easy to operate.” Users may also lock gates shut in lieu of using the included pin.
GateHands come in three colors, yellow, green, and orange, and range in price from $50 to $70. They also come in several sizes to fit tube gates, and a handy printable measuring tape is offered on the GateHands website.
GateHands are manufactured in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and will soon be available in stores. For now, they may be purchased from their website GateHands.com.
Chopping ice seems to be a necessity for ranchers and farmers in northern states that experience what seems like half a year of winter. But it doesn’t have to be. With Micro Sweeper, stock tanks and self-waterers don’t ice over, eliminating both a chore and the cost of operating electric water heaters.
The system is installed below the float valve in a pressurized tank and constricts in low temperatures, allowing water to continually enter and cycle, preventing freezing. There is some runoff, said Spencer Barbour, co-owner of Mountain Water Well Service in Sheridan, Wyoming, who sells and uses the Micro Sweeper.
The Micro Sweeper installs in minimal time, from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on experience level and small hitches in installation, and it can fit in any size tank.
“If you have someone around that’s good with plumbing, they can install it in 15 minutes,” Barbour said. “Underneath the float valve, you put in the key with bushing, and it all screws into it.”
He has installed three Micro Sweepers into his dad’s tanks over the past three years, with excellent results, he said. “He has only had it froze over one time this winter.”
Similar products are on the market, but Barbour said Micro Sweepers are “so much more efficient, low maintenance, self-operating, and seem to work well over time.”
The Micro Sweeper releases approximately 2.5 gallons each time it opens, whenever the temperature reaches 41º or lower, whereas others release, on average, 12 gallons each time it opens, Barbour said. The float valve still operates as needed when water levels are low.
The product is produced by Baker Products and sells for $75 to $80.
Cross Five Cattle Coolers
Vaccines are expensive and sensitive. They have to be kept at the proper temperature and out of the sun. That isn’t so difficult as long as they’re in the bottle, but once they’re in the gun, those conditions can be difficult to maintain.
Cross Five Cattle Coolers solve both problems while keeping the guns fast and easy to reach—a necessity in getting anyone to actually use them.
The coolers, designed by South Dakota ranching couple Ryan and Keri Casteel, when they failed to find exactly what they were after on the market, feature slots for three or four color-coordinated vaccinations and guns. The vaccine bottles rest within the left compartment of the cooler in either a blue, green, yellow, or red slot, and the vaccine gun rests in a specified color-coded holster within the lid on the other side of the cooler. A color-coordinated marker or chalk can easily be used with each vaccine, allowing for zero confusion.
“We wanted to buy a product like this, and we couldn’t find something we were satisfied with,” Keri said. “The idea behind ours is a color-coded organization system. All vaccination “A” goes in yellow, the vaccination syringe is yellow, the compartment is yellow, and the marker is yellow.”
A prototype was first created to pass around to neighbors to test the strength and durability of their cooler before they officially began production; the Casteels were pleased with the results.
“We told them to run it through the wringer, drop it off the back of a pickup, beat on it,” Keri said. “It can withstand the use by a rancher and is a seven- to 10-day cooler. We really tried to think of everything a rancher could possibly want or need to secure the viability of the vaccine.”
The cooler may also be kept warm on either or both sides to be used while artificially inseminating or administering shots in freezing temperatures.
The Cross Five Cattle Coolers, named for Ryan’s grandpa’s brand from the 1940s, are available at retailers nationwide and on their website CrossFiveCattleCoolers.com. They range in price from $259 to $339, depending on the package of cooler products, such as an alternative right-side lid to turn the cooler into a standard-use, two compartment cooler. The cooler is 37 lbs and measures 23×18.75×15.8”. They offer free shipping within the United States.
Ryan and Keri operate a cow/calf operation near Sturgis, South Dakota. Their three daughters Whitney, Presley, and Scout help with both the cattle operation and the cooler business.
STOCKade ST400i Cordless Fence Post Stapler
For a little more than a year, the STOCKade ST400i Cordless Fence Stapler has been on the market and making fencing far quicker and easier. For those who do a lot of fencing, like large ranches or commercial fencers, the $1,400 price tag and additional expenses of batteries and gas cartridges are well worth the investment.
“The longest running stapler we have sold has shot about 80,000,” said Shane Maline of Maline Seed and Fence in Gothenburg, Nebraska. “It’s a fencing company in Colorado that has counters on the gun.”
She has been selling the fence staplers for about 18 months and has yet to have one returned. Customers who want to use the stapler at above 7,200 feet should wait a little while before buying, as it won’t fire at that altitude, though they hoping to fix that.
A box of 1,000 staples and two gas cartridges runs $110, and the gun fires 750 staples per fuel cell and 3,000 staples per charge per battery. It can fire two staples per second and two batteries are included with the kit.
“When I demo’ed them, I really liked them. They’re slick,” said Matt Haun, manager of Pine Bluff Feed and Grain. “It looks pretty simple to use and is maintenance free. You just have to clean it once in a while.”
The STOCKade ST400i Cordless Fence Post Stapler can be used with barbed wire fencing, mesh and heavy woven fencing, predator control fencing, highway boundary fencing, and electric fencing with a power staple insulator guide attachment.
It is available to purchase throughout many locations in Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, Colorado, and South Dakota. For a location near you, visit the website STOCKade.com.
Washboards are par for the course on gravel roads, but with the Road Drag, washboards can be bested faster than can be done with a grader/maintainer. The Road Drag can be pulled by a 120-140 horsepow
er tractor at speed of 8 to 10 miles per hour.
Road Drag inventor JR Breitkreutz said the road drag is far more economical than a maintainer, and they can be used in conjunction to save miles and wear and tear on the maintainer.
“The township put about 200 hours per year on the drag, and they said, it saved them about 500 hours on the maintainer, because it is almost three times as fast,” Breitkreutz said. “They said it saves them between $60,000 to 80,000 on trade value because of the saved hours on the machine.”
The Road Drag retails for about $17,500 but requires a tractor to operate. Breitkreutz offers two solutions to those who may not have a tractor available.
“Many implement dealers will rent a tractor pretty cheap, especially through government programs,” he said. He and co-worker Dale Havelka are also working on a smaller model that can be pulled behind a pickup.
The Road Drag has three blades, two of which can be lifted and tilted, allowing for customization of grading and the elimination of gravel piles left behind. It is made of high-quality materials and is powder-coated.
“I’m fortunate to have a guy who works with me here that when he came on, he brought a lot of knowledge and skill,” Breitkreutz said. “I grew up building stuff my whole life, so we love to build stuff.”
A Road Drag may be purchased at JRs Shop, LLC, in Wisner, Nebraska.