You've been working with the family for a while, and realize that a new cattle working chute on the operation will save time, be more efficient, and safer for livestock and handlers. So, how do you convince your Dad, Granddad, or Boss that it's time to invest in an equipment upgrade?

First, let's start with the facts. Cattle are large animals and can be unpredictable, especially in confined spaces. Unfortunately, we all know someone who has been injured working with cattle, even with years of experience and training. The CDC issued a report in 2009 on cattle deaths in four states, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska between 2003 and 2008. There were 21 deaths total, and blunt force trauma to the head or chest were the cause of death in all but one case.

Unfortunately, injuries and death while handling livestock are still occurring, and are something we need to work hard to prevent. Using effective stockmanship skills is an important first step in preventing injuries. Dr. Ron Gill emphasizes five basic principles; that cattle want to see handlers, go around handlers, be with and go to other cattle, remove pressure, and only have one main thought at a time.

We use these same basic principles of cattle behavior to design cattle working chutes and other cattle handling equipment. This maximizes the safety of the livestock and the handlers. UC Davis Safety Services states:

Safe operation of livestock squeeze chutes can prevent most injuries and sometimes deaths, to employees and/or livestock during handling operations. Typically, injuries from livestock squeeze chutes include contusions, cuts, abrasions and broken bones to employees and livestock.

– UC Davis Safety Services

A chute needs to squeeze both sides of the animal, and have a non-slip floor. Calm animals require minimal pressure to hold them, and moving slowly and methodically can also reduce the risk of injury for cattle and handlers.

Despite the fact that you may only work cattle in a chute once or twice a year, adding one to your operation, no matter your size, can quickly pay for itself by preventing injuries to cattle, or a trip to the emergency room for a livestock handler. Using a chute manufactured for the job at hand will also increase efficiency and cattle comfort on the operation.

So, how do you convince Dad, Granddad or the Boss that it's time for a new cattle working chute?

Black calf being ear tagged in Q-Catch Cattle Head Holder

  1. Reflect on their position. Put yourself in the shoes of your Dad, Granddad or Boss, and try to list all of the reasons they might think of not to purchase a cattle working chute.
  2. Come up with a counter argument for each of these reasons. Whether it's using some of the facts outlined above, or something specific to your operation, develop your counter-arguments for the reasons you think they have for not purchasing a new chute. Consider their needs when developing your counter-arguments and maintain respect for their position throughout the process.
  3. Start the conversation with shared values. Whether it's Grandma's longstanding concern for safety, a neighbor's near miss with injury, or your shared dedication to providing for cattle comfort, it's important that you start the conversation on common ground.
  4. Define your need. How will a cattle working chute be used on your operation? Where will it be placed? Do you just need a chute or will there be additional equipment, such as an alley? Having a well-thought out plan for the cattle working chute will increase the credibility of your request.
  5. Run the Numbers. Try and calculate the time saved through greater efficiency in the cattle working chute, or the amount saved by preventing injuries. It's hard to argue with numbers when they're calculated correctly!
  6. Indirect Benefits. There may be indirect benefits to adding a cattle working chute, whether it's decreased worker fatigue, calmer cattle, or increased morale in livestock handlers. These are intangible, but certainly are worth discussing as they also impact your bottom line in ways that are hard to quantify, but definitely noticed.
  7. Close with your shared values. Being honest, clear, and direct will increase your persuasiveness. Closing the discussion by re-stating your shared values will also bring both of you back to what matters most.

Even though you know that purchasing a new cattle working chute is the right decision, Dad, Granddad or the Boss may need to think about it before making the final decision. Remember, you've had quite a bit more time to consider all of the reasons why it's important and how to make it happen. Give them some space to reflect on your statements, and maybe come back to you and ask a few questions. With a patient and respectful approach, you'll be installing your new chute before you know it.


About the Author

Dana Charban, Manager of Content Strategies and Journalist for Arrowquip, catching black cow in Q-Catch 86 Series cattle chute

Dana Charban

As a small town girl from rural Manitoba, Dana Charban grew up around agriculture and farming her en...

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