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Winter Accommodation for Beef Animals. Cozy Stock make great calves.

Collecting pen

Where the handling facilities are located independent of buildings, the collecting pen should ideally be able to hold a number of cattle that fits in with group sizes within the herd.

Where handling facilities are located in, or adjacent to, e.g. a slatted unit the pens in the slatted unit could be used for collecting and holding animals.

The floor area required per animal will vary depending on size.


As a general guide allow:

• Young cattle: 0.9 to 1.1 m²

• Finishing cattle: 1.4 to 1.7 m²

• Suckler cows with calves: 2.3 to 2.75 m²


It is easier to control and move cattle in a long narrow pen rather than a wide square one.


Pen widths of 4.5 to 6 m are recommended (depending on herd size). The entrance to it should be at least 3 m wide to allow easy access.


Forcing pen

The forcing pen leads from the collecting pen to the race. The forcing pen should be funnel shaped as it approaches the mouth of a race. One side of the funnel must be straight. The angle of the funnel is critical and should not exceed 30°.


If the angles are wider, cattle may block or turn at the mouth of the race or two cattle may become jammed at the race entrance. The widest point of the pen should approximately be 3 to 4 m. The forcing pen should hold enough cattle to fill the race.


Circular forcing pens leading to a funnel entrance to the race are preferred to rectangular ones.

Animals should not be tightly packed into the forcing pen as they may need to turn to enter the race.


Race

• Length: The race or chute should be 3.6 m minimum. A race of 9 m will hold 5 to 6 adult cattle. Long races (e.g. handling over 12 cattle) are not recommended.

• Width: the internal width of the race will depend on the size and type of the largest cattle using it.

As a general guideline, allow: adult stock 700-750 mm clear internal width.

Exceptionally large stock (e.g. pedigree) may require facilities up to 900 mm wide.

Young stock require an internal race width of approximately 500 mm.

Very wide races may have to be altered temporarily for young stock e.g. fitting panels/planks to the side.

• Height: 1.4-1.5 m above floor level. All surfaces must be smooth. Avoid protruding objects. Uprights should be spaced about 2 m apart. Side bars are normally spaced 350-400 mm apart.

• Floor: Non slip concrete surface.

• Tailbar: It should be possible to use a tailbar at various points along the race to prevent stock reversing out.

• Facilitates drainage, e.g. via split drains.

• Incorporates opening side panels/gates for easy release of animals if necessary.



Catwalk

A catwalk running outside the race:


• Reduces the risk of injury to the operator.

• Improves access and reach when handling stock.

• Prevents cattle’s feet slipping out under the bottom rail.

• Catwalks should normally be 250-400 mm high. The width of the catwalk should be wide enough to facilitate a safe and efficient working area. The recommended width should be approximately 1.1 m. The catwalk can be omitted along side the crush section if it is seen to restrict the operator’s access to the animal.


Crush

The crush may be part of the race or a separate facility at the end of the race. A well designed crush should incorporate the following features:

• Quick release restraining gate. Different designs of proprietary head gates are available and the choice depends on the frequency of use and type of work to be done.

• Have a tailbar/gate to prevent and control backward movement.

• All around access to the animal, including at the rear.

• A secure gate to hold back animals in the race is essential when accessing the rear of an animal. The animal in the crush must also be prevented from backward movement.

• Removable side bars/gate for access to feet, udder, etc.

• Have equipment for hoisting and restraining limbs.

• Facilitate weighing if necessary. The weighing facility can be in a separate section of the race behind the crush

• Preferably be under cover.

• Free from sharp edges.

• Non slip floor surface.

• Facilitate access of a vehicle for loading of animals. Purpose-built crushes are commercially available. Typical dimensions are:

• Length: 1,830 mm.

• Width: 790 mm.

• Height: 1,625 mm.


Dispersal Pen

This pen holds cattle until all cattle are treated or handled. It can facilitate the sorting of stock afterwards. Handling facilities in or near housing can use the pens in the housing for holding and dispersal.


And most importantly, we want YOU to be safe.

Safety passes or personnel passes are narrow vertical openings in gates or fences.

They typically provide 300 to 350 mm of clear space for people to pass through. Locate passes wherever it is expected that people would otherwise have to climb over a fence or open a gate on a regular basis. Have a least one safety pass in each pen and one every 7.5-8 m in animal movement and handling passageways to allow someone to exit quickly. Avoid locating passes where animal flow is directly in line with, or at the pass, as excited animals may try to use the safety pass as an escape route and become trapped. Safety passes also allow someone to get in front of or behind a group of animals safely and with relative ease.


We wish you every success this Winter and all the Winters to come.


This information is publically available as part of the Teagasc Beef Manual available on Teagasc.ie


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