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West: Working facility safety during the winter months

Carmen Willmore for Progressive Cattle Published on 25 November 2020

No matter if you’ve been in the business one year or 20 years, you always seem to find improvements you can make to your working facilities. Well-constructed facilities should reduce stressful situations for both cattle and handlers.

Most of us don’t have the ability to tear down and rebuild our working facilities, but we may be able to change how cattle work through, adding additional gates to create Bud boxes or creating a swing gate when necessary. There are also some things you can check in your current facilities to make sure cattle can move through them safely.

It’s important before working cattle to check your facilities for any loose nails, boards and rough ground that may cause injury or slow the flow of cattle. During cold months, any area with excessive ice that reduces traction can be a train wreck waiting to happen when working cows. If you see an icy patch, throw some salt and sand on it to melt the ice and increase traction for the cattle. If cattle don’t have good footing, they will be harder to move through the alleys, increasing the stress on them and yourself.

Walk through your alleys and chute prior to starting to work cattle. Run your hands where the cattle will be moving through to check for anything they might get hung up on. Especially loose nails or boards can disrupt flow and cause cattle to bunch up in certain areas, creating a bottleneck and a place they may start to turn around at. Before working cattle, replace any of the loose boards and remove any other obstacles that may be in their way.

Finally, you need to be mindful of your handling system and where you may be able to add additional gates or holding pens to increase your efficiency. For example, if you have a long, wide alleyway you are holding cattle in before coming into the Bud box or squeeze tub, you may consistently have trouble getting them to move into the next area. Consider adding an additional gate to minimize the herd size in each pen, making it easier to maneuver and get the cattle into the chute with less stress on the entire herd.

Your facilities are only as good as you make them. Ensure they fit your needs and the needs of your cattle. Reducing the stress on yourself and your cattle can increase your herd health and quality in the long term.  end mark

Carmen Willmore
  • Carmen Willmore

  • Extension Educator
  • University of Idaho Extension – Lincoln County
  • Email Carmen Willmore

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