Every farm that carried cattle should have equipment and facilities to enable the cattle to be collected together, and confined, so that they can be dipped, examined, treated and sorted. This must be done with the least possible stress to the animals. A well-constructed and laid out handling facility means that both the cattle and their handlers can be trained to carry out cattle tasks quickly and efficiently. The following factors should be considered when building or reconstructing a cattle handling facility.
Choose a site that is in the middle of the cattle grazing area. Moving cattle over long distances for dipping and handling uses up time and burns up energy that otherwise could be used for production. The distance walked to the dip should be as short as possible. The site should have a slight slope to allow for drainage, a well-drained soil, good shade and a permanent supply of water.
The design should allow for a well organised flow of animals, with the least disturbance and minimum possibility of injury. A control point where the whole layout is visible allows the whole cattle handling operation to be supervised. Gates should be hung and sited to ensure that the flow of animals can be controlled and directed. Funnel shaped forcing areas at the entrance to the dip and race prevent milling and wheeling by the animals and speed up throughput.
- Holding pens 2.5 square metres per head
- Forcing pens 1.7 square metres per head
- Calf pen 0.6 square metres per head
- Sorting gates 2.0 metres wide
- Fences 1.7 metres high
- Uprights 2.75 metres apart and 150mm planting depth
Handling facilities can be built to accommodate herds of varying sizes but the maximum capacity of each holding and forcing pen should be no more than 125 head. Larger herds are more difficult to control and are more prone to fighting and butting each other.
Handling facilities can be constructed from cement and farm timber, or they can be purchased and erected by firms that specialize in this type of work. They must be strong, well-constructed and any wooden poles should be solid and treated with creosote. Flimsy materials are dangerous, inefficient and require a great deal of maintenance.
Figure 1: A crush
Figure 2: A cattle race
Figure 3: A cattle scale
Figure 1: Cattle handling facility plans
Figure 2: Cattle handling facility plans
Figure 3: Cattle handling facility plans
Figure 4: Fencing for cattle handling facilities
Figure 4: Fencing for cattle
Figure 5: Fencing for cattle
Figure 6: Loading ramp
Figure 7 and 8: A branding iron (left) and an animal been branded (right)
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Branding with a hot iron kills the hair follicles and prevents the re-growth of hair. The iron is heated to a dull red colour and applied firmly to the skin in one of the positions shown on the left; so that the hide is not spoilt and will qualify for the hide bonus. Freeze branding is done by cooling the branding iron in a container with solid carbon dioxide that has been crushed and mixed with methylated spirits. The frozen iron is held on the bare skin for about 60 seconds to kill the hair follicles.
Figure 9: Branding positions
Ear notching is done by means of a special clipper which cuts a small triangular notch out of the ear of the calf. Various numbering systems are used, one of which is shown on the left. This is a permanent system of identification which can be read fairly easily.
Figure 10: Ear notching
Metal or plastic tags are inserted into the ear of the calf, and these carry letters or numbers. Plastic tags are made of both hard and soft plastic, and can be read easily. Both metal and plastic tags are inserted into the ear using special applicators. Plastic tags can be obtained in various colours which help in identification.
Left: A calf in a Calf Tilt being dehorned using a hot iron heated by gas.
- Animals with horns that are too large for a hot iron can be
- Dehorned using a small saw, serrated wire or a guillotine.
- The animal must be given a local anaesthetic before the
- Operation which is best carried out by a Veterinarian.
This can be carried out using a knife, a Burdizzo or by placing a rubber ring around the cord at the top of the testicles. This restricts the flow of blood to the testicles causing them to dry out and drop off after about 10 days. This method should be used on young calves, up to 7 days old, but the knife and burdizzo can be used on older animals.
Left: Carefully cutting the membrane covering the testicle.
Below: Cutting the connective tissue.
Right: Severing the spermatic cord and the blood vessels leading to the testicle. This is done with a scraping motion rather than a clean cut to reduce bleeding.
Below: The Burdizzo in use. The jaw of the Burdizzo is used to crush the spermatic cord and blood vessels without breaking skin. Each testicle is dealt with in turn and the cord to each testicle is compressed in two different places. Great care must be taken to ensure that the top of the testicle is clear of the jaws before closing, and that only the spermatic cord is crushed.
Left: An animal passing through a sprayrace. This is a very effective method of dipping cattle provided that the dip liquid is well filtered to avoid blockage of the nozzles.
A fresh solution of dip must be made up each week for the dipping.
After dipping, the old dip must be pumped out and the whole system must be cleaned by pumping clean water through the pipes and nozzles.
Right: A Sprayrace showing the funnel leading into the race.
The water tank is on the roof, and the pumping equipment is under the lean-to roof on the left of the sprayrace.
Figure 9: Cross section of a plunge-dip
Left: Inserting a Weaning Plate in the nose of a calf before weaning. The plate prevents the calf suckling its dam so that the cow dries off.
The calf then can graze or eat concentrate and, because it is running with its dam, both the cow and calf remain contented.
The weaning plate is left in the calf for about two weeks, then removed, cleaned and stored for the following year, or for use with the next batch of calves.
Once the plates have been removed, the cows and calves should be separated and run in different camps or paddocks that are far apart.
Below: Injecting an animal in the loose skin behind the shoulder
Left: Dosing an animal. Notice that the dosing gun is placed in the side of the mouth so that the liquid is swallowed by the animal and not inhaled.