Cattle Working Facilities
To properly manage a cattle operation, adequate handling facilities are a must. Having a fast, efficient means of safely working cattle benefits both the animals and the producer. The better a producer’s working facilities are, the more they will be used. The more they are used, the better their management becomes.
The essential needs of a good facility include holding pens, crowding or sorting pens, a working chute, loading chute and a head gate or squeeze chute. The deluxe version may include scales, a palpation cage, and a calf tilt table.
Pens serve many purposes in a working facility. You should be able to hold the cattle to be worked, to sort cattle into groups, as holding pens, sick pens and to quarantine new animals coming into the farm. Pens can be too large, so have several smaller pens if possible, and you cannot have too many gates. If you think you need a gate, put one, you wont be disappointed.
Working chutes can be straight or curved. Cattle will move more easily through a curved chute, as they cannot see what is ahead. Chutes with sloping sides, narrow at the bottom, wider at the top, allow producers to work different sizes of cattle without them turning around as much in the chute. Blocking gates or anti-back devices along the working chute help to regulate cattle flow through the chute.
Squeeze chutes or head gates provide the means of restraint of individual animals for management procedures, affording operator and animal safety.
It is generally better never to release animals from the squeeze or head gate into an open pasture. By releasing animals into an enclosed pen, worked cattle can be released together or moved back to a holding pen, and any animals that escape without being worked won’t have to chased all over the pasture to be reworked.
By investing some time and thought into a new working facility this spring, producers can assure themselves of the ability to carryout timely management procedures and make working their cattle a pleasure, rather than a dreaded task, for years to come.