Upgrading or building a new cattle handling system? Read this first
Whether you’re installing a new cattle handling system or upgrading an aging set up, careful consideration should be taken to ensure that money is spent effectively.
1. Make safety a priority
First and foremost, the main priority should always be safety for both cattle and handlers. If you’re upgrading your current system, start at the back and work your way forward to assess every point of safety. For example:
Do you holding pens have the capacity to accommodate the amount of cattle you tend to work at one time?
How vulnerable are you if an animal decides to turn while moving them into the system?
How easy is it to secure the gate behind cattle in the tub?
Is there any point within the race or crush that an animal’s head or leg could get caught?
Does your crush allow you to access the animal without the risk of breaking your arm?
These are just a few of the things you should be looking at. A quick assessment will provide a clear guide to determine what is and isn’t justifiable for the system upgrade.
2. Consider efficiency
Efficiency benefits are two-fold: Cattle that flow easily through the system will be less stressed, which reduces performance setbacks. Cattle that flow easily through the system will also reduce labour requirements. While there are long-term investment benefits in a new system, it’s important to make the most of your budget to get the most bang for your buck.
For example, you may have your heart set on a new hydraulic crush. If that takes up your budget and means the rest of your system remains inefficient and requires two people to herd cattle one-by-one into it, then you aren’t going to see the benefit of that expense. However, if you were to opt for a quality manual squeeze crush and had cash left over to include a sweep pen and race sections, then your business will quickly yield dividends in terms of safety and time.
If you have a very efficient arrangement and find that your limiting factor is the crush then a hydraulic crush is now a better option. A long day working cattle, maybe on a TB test, will be done and dusted sooner and safer – leaving you more time to get on with the day to day running of your farm. It's also worth considering that the reduced physical demands of a hydraulic crush can allow members of staff who aren't necessarily suited to cattle work to be involved and play an integral role in your farm.
3. Use animal behaviour to your advantage
Speaking of efficiency, understanding and working with animal behaviour will reduce stress to you and your cattle.
Cattle do not like dark spaces, noisy equipment and distractions. Using caulked sheeted siding on races and sweep pens massively reduces the noise that cattle are exposed to in what is already a high stress situation.
4. Think about space requirements
Space can also play a part in determining the layout of a system. Smaller sweep pens can still work well, an 8' radius sweep pen for example can be highly efficient, cattle work more quickly in smaller groups as the operator is placing pressure nearer to the lead animal and so even if a 10' radius won't fit, it still needn't limit your processing ability. Also, consider a double race. Races that run side by side help to draw cattle forward, reduce the distance from the crush to the rear of the race while still maintaining capacity and utilise your space effectively. Even if you space isn't limiting you, a double race can still prove a cost effective and low stress option for cattle handling.
Without question, safety is the most important factor to prioritise for any cattle handling system. From there, consider the monetary benefits from the ability to implement better management practices with minimal stress and time resource.
If you’d like more advice on cattle handling equipment, system designs or low-stress cattle handling techniques, please get in touch.