More tips for handling facilities

Here is the second of a three-part series on handling facilities from Harold K. House, Dairy and Beef Housing and Equipment Engineer with OMAF and MRA:
A handling system breaks down into two section—the basic components, or heart of the system, and the optional components (accessories).
The basic components consist of three major sections:
•The crowding pen funnels cattle into the working chute.
A circular or angular pen helps to get the cattle facing the right way and entering the chute in single file.
Solid sides and crowd gates help to avoid the cattle becoming distracted. It also makes the cattle see the chute as the only way out.
Older facilities built with open sides easily can be easily by closing them in.
•The working chute holds the cattle in single file ready to enter the headgate, or squeeze. Ideally, it should be long enough to line up and hold at least three animals.
If the chute can be curved, it will help to make moving the cattle even easier.
Chutes must be narrow enough to prevent cattle from turning. A chute with sloping sides will allow different sizes of cattle to be worked and still prevent turning.
Some simple procedures may be done right in the working chute.
•The headgate is for restraining animals securely and safely during treatment. They range from manual models to self-catching and hydraulic ones.
They need to be quick, easy to operate, and adjustable for different sizes of cattle.
The optional components, meanwhile, vary with each set-up and producer’s preferences, and help to add efficiency and flexibility.
Holding pens will allow for faster handling of cattle as they can be sorted and held prior to moving into the crowd pen.
They also prevent the mixing of treated cattle back into the main herd.
The squeeze gives greater control of the animal by holding its sides. This serves to reduce the struggling and thus the stress on the animal.
Many have gates and sections which swing out to give greater access to different parts of the animal.
Cutting gates along the chute allow you to let an animal out of the main group. They also can be very useful if you every have an animal go down in the chute.
They usually form part of the wall of the working chute.
Blocking gates located along the chute will prevent cattle from moving ahead or back. They usually slide across the chute on a track, or drop down guillotine style on a rope and pulley.
Finally, back stops are similar to blocking gates, except they allow the animals to move forward and only prevent them from backing up.
Next week’s article will continue with some of the optional components, as well as discuss considerations when building a handling facility.