Every rancher or farmer works cattle a little differently depending on a variety of factors from herd size, type, and age to equipment/facility layout and budget, yet too often standard equipment does not accommodate these needs.
As a result, a growing number of farmers and ranchers are looking into a new category of custom cattle working equipment that will not only accommodate these needs but also enable safer, more efficient and profitable operation.
Custom equipment, such as alleys and gates, is practically required due to the unique way each farm and ranch is layed out. Such equipment can save many thousands of dollars,
for instance, when adapting alley length, doors, or sides to allow the use of existing barns, pens or facilities, which is a vital consideration particularly for part-time ranchers.
From custom alleys and “no corner” tubs to four-way diverters, such custom equipment is enabling farmers and ranchers to work according to their needs and layout with greater efficiency. Fortunately, the equipment is not only being made durable enough to withstand long-term use, but also is enabling safer operation for the cattle and ranch help.
Alleys and adjustable alleys are critical for efficiently directing cattle, yet traditional 20’ long units are often too inflexible to suit the needs of farmers and ranchers, who may need custom lengths or door configurations to accommodate their existing facilities.
On a recent university field services project, a custom adjustable alley was chosen over a traditional 20’ unit, according to the project’s supervisor.
An adjustable alley was required to run a large number of cattle through to a weighing station at one of their facilities. They already had a tub and squeeze chute set on a concrete pad, and did not want to tear it up and make adjustments to extend the existing pad and building.
Instead, the project supervisor turned to a custom 15’6” adjustable alley from GoBob Pipe and Steel, a national supplier of standard and custom Cattle Flow™ cattle working equipment. To accommodate the needs of farmers and ranchers, the equipment supplier has constructed alleys from 12’ to 53’ in length, and provides options for the number of doors, door dimensions and placement, as well as side heights.
Since there was no more room in that location, the equipment supplier built the adjustable alley to fit where it needed to go. This saved many thousands of dollars in adjustment costs. With it, the university can run cattle from 2,000 lbs. herd bulls down to 200 lbs. calves by adjusting the side with its bulldog jack.
According to the project supervisor, the custom equipment supplier built the adjustable alley with two 6’ escape doors, and two small palpation doors for touch and inspection.
At the project supervisor’s request, the equipment vendor also cut the siding down to 3’ on the non-working side so cattle can see better out of the alleyway, as they found this helps cattle stay calmer and flow through easier.
Custom Crowding Tubs
Crowding tubs are required to get a group of cattle to walk single file into an alley or squeeze chute for working, such as for shots or de-worming.
The problem with traditional tubs, however, is that most have a single gate, which when it swings closed leaves a large pie-shaped corner in the tub, where invariably a cow will stick her nose and refuse to move. This brings cattle working to a standstill until the cow is coaxed, prodded, or “hot-shotted” along, or the whole group is released from the tub and brought back through.
So called “cornerless” tubs with two gates, an outside gate and inside gate to push cattle from the tub, have been developed in an attempt to resolve this issue. Yet problems remain with the two “cornerless” tub designs currently on the market. In one design, if the inside gate pivots toward the center of the tub, it will fully close but leaves a smaller pie shaped corner where cows can get stuck and back up the cattle working process. In the other design, if the inside gate pivots at the exit point, it hits the tub’s sidewall, will not fully close, and will not fully push cows from the tub.
Instead, custom equipment from a company like GoBob takes a unique approach with its no corner tub design. Using a design with three gates of different sizes that rotate and close in sequence when the head gate is closed, this eliminates the tub corner and allows complete gate closure. This drives cattle from the tub into the alley without stoppage, allowing for better cattle flow and safer, more efficient operation.
Furthermore, with the swing of a gate, the no corner tub design has two exit points, while a typical tub has just one. This allows for more efficient sorting of which cattle are worked, further improving work efficiency.
In contrast to typical bolt-together lightweight tubs, the no corner tub’s welded design
also allows it to be delivered in one piece with no required assembly and virtually no maintenance.
One large ranch manager in Arizona recently found that a custom no corner tub has helped improve the flow of cattle through his facilities to the point where the bottleneck is no longer the crowding tub but the squeeze chute.
Efficient cattle sorting of mamas from calves and steers of different ages is key to profitable cattle working, yet to achieve this smaller producers cannot afford costly equipment, such as portable sorters which can cost up to $20,000.
“Up to 90% of cattle production is done by producers with 40 head of cattle or less like me, and efficient sorting with diverters can be just as important to small operators as big ones,” says Brian Freking, an Oklahoma State University livestock specialist, who also raises about 40 Chiangus cattle on his own Cowlington, Okla. farm.
After a lifetime of working with cattle, Freking contacted GoBob with suggested modifications to the company’s two-way cattle diverter, which could help smaller producers like him sort cattle more safely and efficiently in the alley. This resulted in the creation of a four-way diverter that retails for about $1,000, one of which Freking now uses on his own farm.
“In the diverter design, on the left and right are hinged gates that are shut at the start but have the ability to open up,” explains Freking. “In my case, I’ve got it set to sort left, right, or straight ahead in the alley, which saves me about 15-20 minutes for every hour I’m working cattle.”
“Having the operator safely sort cattle from outside the alley with a four-way diverter, rather than having to get inside the alley to sort is safer for the operator and cattle, and can make a big difference to small operators,” concludes Freking.