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NDSU Center Staff Design Livestock Handling System

Cattle pass through the double alley that's part of the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center's new livestock handling system. Cattle pass through the double alley that's part of the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center's new livestock handling system.
NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center livestock technician operates the hydraulics on the squeeze chute. NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center livestock technician operates the hydraulics on the squeeze chute.
The new livestock handling system at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center reduces stress on cattle and workers.

Cattle experts at North Dakota State University’s Carrington Research Extension Center have designed a livestock handling system that reduces stress on animals and workers.

The indoor system of steel pens and alleys allows workers to direct cattle more easily from holding pens into a scale and/or the squeeze chute for weighing, treatment or vaccinations.

It’s less stressful on the cattle because they move in a more natural flow pattern, according to center animal scientist Vern Anderson. It is less stressful for the cattle handlers because it requires less labor to get the animals into the chute and makes the job safer for the workers.

“Cows go through the alley and chute on their own,” says Dale Burr, a center livestock technician. “No one has to be back forcing them through.”

The system also makes better use of the space in the center’s 40-foot by 64-foot working barn.

“Previous to this renovation, the space was not well-utilized,” Anderson says. “With this new system, we can work cattle with one or two fewer people with the same or better productivity.”

The system consists of three sequential holding pens and a “Bud box” from which cattle enter a double alley, then move into a single alley. From there, they move on to the single-animal scale and then the squeeze chute. Workers can sort the cattle into multiple pens after they exit the squeeze chute.

The Bud box, named for its creator, Bud Williams of Bowie, Texas, is a rectangular corral, rather than the traditional half-round “tub” crowding area. It is positioned to allow cattle to follow their natural movement behavior as they pass into the double alley.

“The Bud box and double alley are the critical parts that make the system work so well,” Anderson says. “Animals move into the double alley more easily than a single alley, with open side-by-side lanes creating less stress when other animals are close by.”

Anderson, Burr, center research specialist Breanne Ilse and center livestock technician Tim Schroeder developed the new livestock handling system last summer with help from Tim Olson, a South Dakota livestock handling expert.

The center’s previous system had been in place since 1972 and it violated current livestock-handling principles. For Anderson and his design team, finding a better system was imperative.

“We weigh a lot of cattle and we weigh cattle often,” he says.

“There are some commercial livestock handling systems on the market that require considerably more space, but our limited dimensions of the working barn required a custom design,” he adds. “This is not an extravagant system, but it is highly functional and user-friendly.”

Schroeder agrees it’s just what the center needed.

“Cows love it,” he says. “The people working the cattle also like the system.”

The system has center-opening hydraulic gates on both ends of the single-animal scale. That feature reduces labor and stress on animals and workers during weighing because the center-opening gates allow only one animal through at a time. Traditional roll gates take awhile to move across an opening, which occasionally can allow more than one animal through at a time.

“This individual animal scale is an essential piece of equipment for the research conducted at the center,” Anderson says.

The hydraulic squeeze chute is another important component of the new system, he says. It operates quietly and holds cattle in place, which is useful when providing animals with special care or treatment.

Anderson says the new system also has an unexpected benefit: It’s contributing to the success of area livestock operations.

Dave Heinrich, a cow-calf producer from Adrian, checked out the system while he was at the center for a meeting. He said he liked what he saw, so he incorporated some of the concepts into his livestock handling facilities.

R and B Manufacturing, Steele, built and installed all but the hydraulic squeeze chute part of the center’s new system. The chute was a gift from the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council.

Visitors are welcome to view the new system, which was completed last fall. For more information, contact the center at (701) 652-2951.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Vern Anderson, (701) 652-2951,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
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