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Cattle-working facilities: Portable vs. permanent

Courtney M. Dyer Published on 24 September 2013
Portable panels.

Working facilities and livestock-handling equipment are crucial for providing a safe and efficient way to handle and work cattle in today’s market.

Having a well-thought-out facility makes management practices like vaccination, preg-checking and tagging cattle faster and easier.

While having your own working facility is essential, the thought of building it is often a daunting one. However, with a little research and planning, building a quality, functional system is not as difficult as many initially think.

There are a number of important factors to consider when planning your facility. The first is often cost, followed by location and size.

One of the most important decisions to be made is whether to build the facilities permanently in place or to purchase portable panels for installation.

More and more individuals and ranches are opting for the modular route for a variety of reasons.

Here are the top eight reasons to consider choosing portable panels to construct your facility.

Reason 1: Cost savings
Cost is one of the top considerations in any project. In many cases, the initial cost of a portable facility is less than the labor, material and time costs of a permanent installation.

When taking maintenance costs into consideration, portable panel facilities are almost always a more cost-effective investment than permanent.

Another factor people often overlook is property taxes. Although the laws vary from state to state, many times the addition of a permanent structure, like working facilities, becomes a taxable asset, while portable or “temporary” structures do not incur these taxes.

Reason 2: Portability
The portability of the working facility is a huge benefit. This allows for cattle-working facilities to be relocated on your current property, to be taken with you if you move, or the panels can be repurposed into paddocks, fencing, etc., if you desire.

Portable panels left over from downsizing can be sold if no longer needed. Adjusting for inflation, most modular panels purchased 10 years ago are worth as much today used as they were when they were originally purchased.

Reason 3: Versatility
Portable panel structures provide versatility permanent pens can’t offer. Often times, facilities are built on a budget with future plans for expansion, or the requirements of the facilities change over time, requiring modifications to the layout to accommodate these new needs.

Portable panels can be moved and the structure can be easily expanded or reduced in size with minimal effort, unlike the permanent alternative.

Once permanent pens are in place, change is a major undertaking. Depending on the permanent construction method, these modifications are often labor-intensive and can require expensive third-party labor costs.

Reason 4: Ease of installation and time saving
Unlike permanent installations, no skilled labor from welders or carpenters is required. This can significantly reduce the cost of installation.

Because portable panels are so easy to work with, two or three men can put up a complete cattle-working facility in a fraction of the time it takes to build permanent facilities.

Depending on the size and type of facility, installation can be completed in one or two days from start to finish.

Reason 5: Adaptability
Portable panels give your facility the ability to easily adapt to changing situations, like times you may be working only part of your herd.

A common problem in cattle handling is having a holding pen that is too large and allows cattle to get past you when trying to move them.

With portable panels, you can easily split an existing pen into two for improved animal flow.

Conversely, if your herd grows, you may find that your permanent installation has an inadequate number of pens for sorting. With the use of a portable system, you can easily add on more pens.

An added bonus of the portable system is the ability to purchase panels with an adjustable alley frame so you can widen or narrow your lead-up alley to better fit the size of cattle you are working.

Reason 6: Low maintenance
There are a variety of panels available for building your portable facility that feature a high-quality, durable powder-coat finish. This finish results in low-maintenance panels that look good and last for a long time.

In contrast, most permanent installations require expensive rust-preventative maintenance each year, along with new coats of paint every few years.

Reason 7: Safety
Permanent installations are often built using local welders or laborers who usually do not have experience with livestock.

Given their lack of experience, they often overlook many of the details that are crucial to safety. These can range from sharp exposed edges to poor designs in regard to livestock flow.

By selecting portable panels from a manufacturer with a reputation for building equipment with safety in mind for both man and animal, portable pens will often offer safety features not found in permanent systems.

Reason 8: Options
No system is a “one size fits all” solution. Depending on the type of operation and herd size, there may be optional equipment that needs to be added to the system to assist with specific tasks. With a portable system, adding items like a scale, a palpation cage or a calf table is easy.

A working facility is only as good as the planning that goes into building it. Without proper facilities, many management practices can’t be efficiently executed.

A good facility increases overall safety for animals and humans. Safe handling also minimizes stress on cattle and can reduce the chances of bruising and injury which lead to quality defects in meat.

Each cattle operation is different, so it is important to consider all the factors involved in your specific case to ensure you make the best choices to fit your needs and to ensure you get the most “bang” for your buck.

Improved herd health, injury prevention and increased labor efficiency will help you see a quick return on your investment. That return on your investment is likely to be even quicker if you elect to build a portable system instead of a permanent one.  end mark

PHOTO
Portable panels. Photo courtesy of Priefert.

Courtney Dyer

Courtney M. Dyer
Director of Public Relations
Priefert Ranch Equipment

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