Upgrading Your Cattle Corral

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A well-built combination of fences designed for gathering, crowding, sorting, treating, and loading cattle is indispensable for safe and efficient work with cattle.

Whether you have 12 or 1,200, a properly sized and designed corral system is essential for the safety of the stockman, their helpers, and in the best interest of the cattle.

There are some excellent reference resources available from the Land-Grant University system that can help a cattle producer evaluate and improve their corrals. The two I reference here are from Mississippi State and Oklahoma State universities and describe the essentials for a good design of a handling facility.

Both these publications, available on the internet, feature photos and drawings of very elaborate corral and handling facilities that accommodate large numbers of cattle. However, I think the most valuable part of both these publications are the tables with recommended dimensions, heights, and design particulars that have useful application to even the smallest homemade cattle corral.

What the cattle producer with 12 head needs for a corral is, of course, different from the operation that has 1,200 but certain design principles are consistent.

For example, the tables in both these publications provide a set of recommended square footages for a crowding pen and the width for a single-file chute, depending on the weight range of cattle most likely to be put through the particular corral. Solid sides of adequate height are important for the close-up cattle crowding area leading immediately to the chute, and the chute’s sides should also be solid to focus the animals’ attention on moving forward and minimize distraction for the animals.

These are principles to which any cattle producer can adhere even if their herd is small and the construction is entirely of substantial wood posts and planks lined with plywood. Well-built gates that are properly hung and supported so they swing freely make a great deal of difference in the ease and safety with which the cattle can be crowded and moved.

This fall and winter may be an ideal time to improve or re-design cattle handling corrals for the benefit of the cattle producer, their helpers, and the cattle.

More information is available in the Oklahoma State Extension publication “Corral and Working Facilities for Beef Cattle, publication BAE1219” and also the Mississippi State Extension publication “Beef Cattle Handling Facilities, publication P2787.”

You can access these publications online or you can contact the Rockbridge Extension office to acquire a printed copy or e-mail me at stanleyt@vt.edu to have a hard copy mailed to you.

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