Small Herd Cattle Working Pens – Tips to Handle Cattle Safely and Easily

Small Herd Cattle Working Pens

Table of Contents

Small Herd Cattle Working Pens

A well-designed cattle handling facility enables a rancher to handle their cattle efficiently and easily. The type and size of a cattle handling facility are dependent on the size of the operation, as each one involves specific design elements. Cattle handling facilities can be simple as well as complex depending on the design.

The main focus of ranchers is to find out the right services providers who offer efficient and reliable services at affordable prices for their small scale production business.

Mostly, cattle handling facilities have a standard layout that involves catch pens, crowding pens (also known as tub), chute, and alley. To enhance the efficiency and performance of the system some additional features can also be added. But of course, for small scale businesses, the standard layout works best.

Cattle record keeping software

The primary objective of farmers, when it comes to the installation of the working facility, is to make sure that the area around is safer and using the system is easier.

Let’s discuss some more about Small Herd Cattle Working Pens and how they can perform well.

The main purpose of these cattle handling facilities is to make the movement of animals easier and safer. Such as moving them into a chute or loading them into a truck. Some basic elements involved are:

  • Holding Pens
  • Crowd Pens
  • Alleys
  • Loading and Working Chutes

The overall size/area of the cattle handling facility, the number of cattle, and rancher’s preferences, together with construct these elements. For standard facility, open side panels are used whereas, chutes and crowd pens with facilities and a bud box with portable side panel facilities are open.

Designing and building a facility is primarily for making the movement of livestock easier, safer, and efficient. The good news is that it does not cost a lot of money. Simple designs with some basic features will do.

How Location Matters for Small Herd Cattle Working Facilities!

It should always be a farmer’s main focus to choose a location where necessary resources are available for the needs of the livestock. Mostly cattle handling facilities are built where cattle can be easily loaded, from nearby areas, into trucks.

Portable cattle handling facilities are popular among farmers now as these can be built and taken down after the cattle are processed. These are constructed with open metal side panels. They are inexpensive and require a bud box to make way for cattle to move into the chutes.

Some main points to keep in mind when setting up a facility involve:

  • Proper drainage system.
  • Good airflow.
  • Closeness to roads and fields.
  • Availability of basic resources like food, water, electricity, etc.
  • Distant from distractions that can disturb the animals.

When building a permanent facility, the selection of the locations becomes even more important.

How Design plays an important role in small herd cattle working pens!

Construction and designing a cattle working facility does not require too much money. Being resourceful is always better with a simpler design. Generally, a holding pen provides 14 square feet per calf and 20 square feet per cow. If we talk about the width of alleyways, 12 feet is recommended.

The crowding pen, on the other hand, should be 10 feet in its diameter for rounded tubs. And 14’ x 20’ for a bud box. The curved pens are to make the animals feel that they are going back or turning around when actually, they are moved to the chute.

Considering a Bud Box for cattle pens

Crowding pens and chutes and the most expensive elements in a cattle handling facility. A working chute should be long enough to hold a good number of cattle at one time having a headlock at the end.

The bud box is an inexpensive element and it does not require any curves. For the construction of a bud box, open square metal panels can be installed. It can be considered as a low-stress method.

How to Install Cattle Working Pen Gate

The most important part of a cattle handling facility is the headgate. It should be strong, safe and sturdy to contain all kinds of animals; small and big.

There are many kinds of gates such as positive control & full opening, scissors- stanchion, and self-catching.

  • Self-catching headgates close automatically because of the animals’ movement.
  • Scissors-stanchion headgates consist of bi-parting halved which pivot at the bottom.
  • The positive control is the ones that lock around the animals’ neck firmly.

Squeeze Chute

It makes the restraining process easier and safer for animals. It can be simple or complex depending on the design. Hydraulic chutes are getting more popular among farmers nowadays.

Tips for Handling Cattle Safely and Easily

Reduce noise, color contrast, and shadows

When cattle cannot see what is in front of them, they are provoked to take flight. Color patterns and shadows stop and confuse them.It is better to consider the angles of the sun when setting up a chute. Putting solid side panels can reduce the shadows. Another most important thing is to eliminate as much as you can. Dangling chains and rattling gates can disturb them more often.

Holding pens

In order to sort calves from cows, it is better to have two holding pens which must have a gate between them.

Size of a chute and working alleys

Chutes and working alleys must be 18 inches in width in order to prevent the cattle from turning. Walls must be strong and sturdy enough to contain the biggest cows.

Use a Bud Box

To stop the cattle from going back to where they came from, consider the use of a Bud Box. A holding pen is also called a bud box which is connected and leads into a chute.

Install gates

Install a gate in the direction that you want your cattle to move. Connecting pastures to alleyways and paddocks work better.

Make drinking easier

Try to make drinking as much easier as possible. Install two to three automatic water drinkers so that a large number of cattle can drink from them in less time and go back to grazing.


How to build cattle working pens?

Working pens are a must-have on ranches. Small scale businesses can install the system at affordable prices by choosing a simple design and using the resources that they already have. Building a cattle working pen requires some important elements to consider such as choosing the right location that has resources like water nearby, and a design that is simple and easy to work with.

How to build working pens for cattle?

Mostly, cattle handling facilities are based on a standard layout that involves a crowding pen, catch pen, chute, and an alley. Adding more features will improve the system’s efficiency. However, for small scale businesses, the basic system setup will work better. The main focus when installing a facility on your ranch is the location and design of the system according to the operating size of your ranch.

Where to purchase cattle working pens and squeeze chutes?

There are many places where you can find cattle working pens and squeeze chutes. Some of which are Arrowquip, Ackermans online, Coastal Country, Lake land farm and ranch, etc.

How to use ‘working pens’ for cattle?

Working pens are used for handling, treating, and sorting cattle. These include working chute, holding a pen, crowding pen, headgate, and spraying or dipping facility.

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