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Southeast: Preparation and planning

Matthew Burns for Progressive Cattle Published on 22 May 2020

Facilities and equipment are critical to the success of any agricultural enterprise. The best way to test a relationship with a significant other or friend is to get up a group of cattle and work calves together.

I think we could agree some challenges will just happen while working cattle but, with some preparation and planning, most can be avoided. How about we start with planning and then work toward preparation? While some operations may have inherited really well-built handling facilities, others may have the opportunity to design something from ground level.

We do not have the space to discuss all the facility design options, but I encourage you to do some research on your options. Resources are plentiful on this topic, and everyone will have a slightly different opinion. I strongly recommend producers observe cattle working through a facility similar to the design they are considering prior to purchasing or building one of their own. Taking your time in designing and investing in high-quality material will result in a working facility that will stand the test of time.

Also, it should be pointed out: Both producers and cattle will have a learning curve with a new facility. While you are learning to use your new facility (dodging squeeze bars and levers), your cattle are learning to navigate the new layout too. Be patient with farm labor and animals through the first couple of trips, and it will pay off later.

If you are working in a well-established facility, take the time to plan scheduled maintenance, which can be accomplished during down times in the production calendar. I like to recommend a maintenance list be kept in the barn/shop and refer to the list when employees need a rainy-day project.

After you have a well-maintained working facility, you still need to do a quick check of your facility to make sure you are really prepared to work cattle. While some things are unavoidable, you can reduce added stress from a frozen headgate, wasp sting or cattle busting out of a holding pen by inspecting the facility and ensuring all parts are moving and functional.

Shake a few gates for wasps, add a little grease to some hinges and friction points, and ensure boards/panels/alley material are secure and ready to hold cattle. Have all equipment and materials ready and available to use as well. Above all else, be mindful of yourself and others. The most important thing you can do is to prepare yourself mentally for some setbacks while working cattle. Embrace the controlled chaos and, if you find yourself wanting to holler at someone or something, take a deep breath while thinking nice thoughts.  end mark

Matthew Burns
  • Matthew Burns

  • Extension Beef Specialist
  • Clemson University
  • Email Matthew Burns

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