"I'll get to it tomorrow." Have you ever walked by something on your ranch that needed a quick fix, and thought that? Of course, we all have! There are only so many hours in the day, and on a cattle operation, there is always more to be done.

However, tomorrow is often just as busy, if not more so, than today. As time wears on, the small, quick fix becomes a larger problem. At this stage, it can turn into something that you must fix in order to continue business as usual.

We want to help you avoid getting to that point. No one enjoys spending extra hours making their cattle handling facility functional, or having the day’s plan totally thrown to the wind because something is broken. Here are three reasons your facility is broken, and how you can fix it before it becomes a problem!

1. Your Cattle Handling Equipment doesn't fit your requirements

Is your equipment or facility designed for the job you’re asking it to do? One of the biggest sources of broken facilities is not having the right equipment for the job at hand. Penn State Extension recommends that all facilities, no matter what their role is in the cattle industry, have a cattle handling system with a corral, squeeze chute, and head gate. Read our 10 reasons why you need a proper cattle chute if you’re still not convinced.

Consider animal science research and recommendations in facility design. The facility should work with cattle behavior to facilitate their movement in a low-stress manner. The breed of cattle you select can also play a role in the fit problems. Some breeds are naturally larger animals, and as such, will require larger facilities and equipment. Other breeds of cattle are more aggressive, and may challenge your equipment, fences, or facilities. Again, fit becomes a problem if your facility can’t withstand the strength of these animals over time.

Old cattle handling facility

2. Low-Quality Cattle Equipment

Sometimes you really do get what you pay for, and this is definitely the case with cattle equipment. Equipment or materials cost less for a reason. You may get away with lower quality for awhile, but eventually, the wear and tear of daily use on a cattle operation will catch up to the equipment, and cause headaches for you. Invest in the highest quality you can, and the equipment will pay for itself over time.

Addressing quality issues on your operation can also be completed in a slow, and methodical approach. Identify items of inferior quality, or that are the most prone to breaking, either from use, age, or quality. Your veterinarian can make recommendations on quality items as well, as they see many operations, and can quickly identify inferior quality and it’s negative ramifications. Prioritize this list, and create a timeline for upgrades. Ideally, you will make equipment and facility upgrades to higher quality options before reaching the broken stage.

3. Not Enough Space in your Cattle Handling Facility

Space issues can wreak havoc on your operation in no time, whether it’s at the feed bunk or out in a grazing situation. Beef cattle need enough space to ensure that all animals have access to feed and water, shelter, and room to move away from more aggressive animals. If adequate space isn’t provided, animals will push on each other or the facility, breaking equipment and the facility over time, or immediately in the worst case scenario. If you invested in lower quality equipment, or have a facility that is the wrong fit, space issues will be exacerbated and you’ll have problems with broken equipment or a broken facility sooner.

If space is an issue on your cattle operation, consider immediate action to relieve pressure on animal numbers. Split the herd into smaller groups; consider expanding your facilities to an under-utilized part of your operation, or work to decrease your herd numbers.

When it comes to cattle handling facilities, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. Design your facility for the job at hand, invest in high-quality equipment, and ensure cattle have adequate space. These three steps can help prevent a broken facility, and let you spend your time working cattle, or enjoying some quality time with your family instead.

References
Basic Beef Production Guidelines – Penn State Extension
Cattle Care: Handling and Facilities – Virginia Tech Extension
Facilities and Cattle Handling – Minnesota Extension