Working the working facility debate

ArrowQuip, a livestock equipment manufacturer asked if I would write something for their website. I thought I would share it here. I’m not sure they are going to use it, but it’s important to understand how much improvements have been made in animal handling by manufacturers creating working systems. All systems are not created equal, and what works for you may not work for someone else. So here are some thoughts from my perspective of what to know before you make decisions on what to use.

This is a system that I have been working on for my situation.  I like having an alley around a round pen.  It’s a great place to lope a colt the first time, exercise bulls, and train and work animals effectively, and I and Bob Studabaker are figuring out some remote gate ideas to where I can work and sort animals out of round pen and sort by myself.  For me this is a great system for all the things I need.

IMG_1740
Working facilities

There is much debate lately on different systems to get cattle into a chute or crush, or loaded on a vehicle for transport. There are lots of cattle loaded in the world everyday, so this is a very important subject.

I feel if you break things down into the component parts it gets much easier to make decisions on the whole.

The most important thing to remember is that the better you prepare your livestock to work, the better any system will work. Learn how to teach your animals to work properly, take the time to get them ready to work, and allow the time to work safely and effectively.

From what I can see there are four pieces to this puzzle.

Safety of humans and animals
Animal welfare
Efficiency of system
Cost
Safety

Bull riding is most likely the most dangerous activity when dealing with bovine animals. They say if you are making a living riding bulls, it’s not if your going to get hurt but how bad. This is true because of the close contact with very active and powerful animals.

Milking cows is most likely to be one of the least dangerous activities when dealing with bovine animals. Once patterned and trained to the milking routine dairy cows are safe to work around. If there is an injury it is usually a mistake made by the handler of having a body part in the wrong place at the wrong time.

These two extremes show us the better we understand pressuring animals, and the better the facilities we use for putting this pressure on, and the better our cattle understand how to work, the safer and more efficient it is.

I’ve worked lots of bucking bulls and it is much safer to not have to be in a small area with them. I have also worked with lots of dairy cows and you many times must be in with them to get them to move where they need to be pressured.

We need a facility that works for the specific animal we are working with. In some situations we will be working with all different types of animals, such as an auction facility or feedlot. We need to be able to put the proper pressure on to get the animal to work and stay safe, as well as keep the animals safe from injury and achieve the highest beef quality.

Animal Welfare

This has always been an important part of the livestock industry. Good stockman have always been aware of animal welfare. They have known that animals that are provided proper nutrition, a healthy environment, and as little fear as possible, will preform as well as genetically capable. This creates high quality of life for the animal as well as high profit potential. The highest fear point is created from excessive pressure that causes fear, and can turn to anger. This is why training animals to accept and work from proper pressure, and creating facilities that animals can flow easily from pressure is so important for animal welfare.

Efficiency Of System

Domesticated livestock need to be moved from point A to point B. If point B is a desirable place that the animal wants to go it takes very little pressure to get them to point B. The less desirable point B is the more pressure it takes to put them there. Imagine a working chute or loading chute out in the middle of a 40 acre pasture. It would not be impossible to get them in the chute, but it would take quite a bit of training and time to get them to walk into the chute. It would take a very high level of skill and time to get it done. The more animals you needed to work the more challenging success would be. The reason it would be so difficult is that we would have to create more pressure out in the forty acres than there is in the confinement of the chute. It is easy for the animal to escape our pressure in the 40 acres. If we put a 40 foot circular pen behind the chute, and put the animal in the round pen it would be easier to apply the pressure without the animal escaping us and it would look for relief of our pressure through the chute. We are able to put more forward pressure on the animal than the chute would be putting back. This would still require high skill and the animal could go through quite a lot of stress before it decided to go in the chute.

In both of these situations we need to pressure the animal from quite far behind the balance point to get the animal to go forward. The farther back you get to move an animal, the less you control the direction the animal goes. If we set up an alley and some sort of a pen that we can create and control the movement and direction of travel of the animals, we can use our pressure effectively to get the animal to go in the chute very easily. The better the system allows you to create movement and direction simultaneously the safer and more effective it becomes. It is more effective if you can create proper pressure and position for the type of animal you are working.

Cost

If you are in the livestock business for profit, return on investment and cash flow are very important. If it is a hobby, entertainment cost is the important thing.

In a for profit business, we must cost our facilities for number of animals worked. Time, safety, beef quality and life of use of facilities is important. The fewer animals worked it would seem the less facilities needed. This is important on the cash flow side, but not so on return on investment. How much is human safety worth? Bruising and injury in a poorly designed facility will injure animals no matter if you are working large numbers or few.

Good quality working facilities hold or increase in value, and many times they have a higher dollar value when sold than when purchased.

Working systems need to work. Not all systems work the same. Make sure you are getting equipment that you look forward to using and are safe doing it.

2 thoughts on “Working the working facility debate

  1. Mac Scott

    I think your round pen with an alleyway around outside is right on. I have always had to work with or adapt existing facilities. (Could not start from scratch). Thought that if I could start with a clean slate I would do something like you pictured. There are a couple of little changes that I would suggest that would make handling easier but the basic concept is real good.

Comments are closed.