June 2011
Featured Articles

Herdsman Brand Continues the Co-op Tradition of Wire Made in the USA

Finished barbed wire flows out to the palletizing department for direct shipping to a Quality Co-op store.


Call it the power of negotiation. Call it cooperative tradition. Or, just call it Herdsman. Five regional cooperatives have joined forces to bring a new brand of farm supplies to their customers.

The idea, according to Jerry Ogg, Director of Hardware at Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC), is to build a line of farm products bringing quality to Quality Co-op customers at an affordable price.

Back in 1936, a group of farmers met under a shade tree in Belle Mina in Limestone County and pooled their purchasing power to start what essentially is today Alabama Farmers Co-op (AFC).

Herdsman is a group of five regional cooperatives that have joined together to better negotiate with manufacturers for high-quality products at quantities large enough to keep manufactures prices in line.

“These five cooperatives have joined forces to give critical mass to better compete in the market place,” said Ogg. “Herdsman will be the focal point for wire products offered by Quality Co-ops.”

The Herdsman brand offers variety and quality. It is long-lasting and is made for American farmers by Americans.

It is sold in over 700 stores nationwide. Visit herdsmanbrand.com for more information about Herdsman brand wire.


Billets were heated and drawn down into rod to be further drawn down into wire strands for weaving into finished wire.

Quality Counts

Ogg recently toured the OK Steel plant in Madill, OK. Joining him on the tour were AFC Feed, Farm and Home salesmen Chris Wisener and John Sims.

Wisener pointed out the manufacturing company has a commitment to be family-owned and to deliver customer satisfaction. He also noted the employees work with a dedication supporting that goal.

He said employees are encouraged to offer ways of improving the products or the manufacturing process.

“The workmanship involved in any of the wire process inspired me,” said Wisener, noting the employees seemed driven to produce a quality product.

Ogg said OK Steel is focused on manufacturing from raw materials to a finished Class 1 or Class 3 steel fencing for the agriculture industry.

“They supply a large variety of finished products that stores can purchase, combining between stores to get product delivered at the least cost,” said Ogg. He also noted this is in the true spirit of the cooperative system.

Where Does Barbed Wire Come From?

Wisener was fascinated by the process of making barbed wire, noting it takes approximately 12 to 15 minutes to produce a roll.

Red hot quarter-inch rod is coming out of the draw-down process. From here, they are drawn down into 12.5-gauge wire ready to be galvanized.


The machine used by OK Steel to manufacture barbed wire was made by the family some years ago. Presently, there are seven machines in use and the company hopes to bring seven more on-line this summer.


Sims described the manufacturing process in detail:

Herdsman brand wire begins as all wire does, as scrap steel. It is sorted and then melted in an electric arc furnace.

After the impurities (slag) are poured off, the liquid steel goes to a smaller furnace where the chemical ingredients are added or taken away to make the steel strong and exhibit the consistency customers demand in their wire.

At this point, the liquid is poured into molds and cooled, making a “billet” 33 feet long and 6.25 inches square.

These billets then go to the rod shop where they are heated again in a gas furnace and then rolled between increasingly smaller sets of dies until it comes out the other end as 7/8-inch diameter rod.

The coils of rod are then taken to the wire plant and heated and drawn down to the desired gauge of wire. Quality checks are taken often at each stage of production.


Reams of 4-gauge galvanized wire rod are being woven into cattle panels.

The wire is galvanized to be either Class 1 or Class 3. Class 1 wire has the lightest zinc coating and Class 3 has the heaviest level of zinc coating. The strength of the wire is determined by the amount of carbon in it.

High tensile means high-carbon or high-strength wire; low carbon is cheaper and lower strength.

After the wire is the proper diameter and galvanized, it goes to different parts of the plant to be made into barbed wire, field fence, 2×4 welded wire, various specialty fencing or cattle panels.

“The wire-making process is fascinating to say the least, but the attention to detail and quality are second-to-none,” Sims said. “We tested some Herdsman barbed wire that had just been run against the top three national brands and the Herdsman had a higher break strength than the others.

“So, remember when buying Herdsman Brand wire products that you are buying the best. ‘Herdsman Brand Fencing Products—Nothin’ Works Harder.’”

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.