Cattle production: Prevent injuries with good planning


By Digital team | 27 June 2019
crush pen; cattle

One of the greatest constraints veterinarians find when trying to treat cattle is the lack or inadequacy of handling facilities. If it is too difficult to constrain cattle, the owner won’t be able to examine or treat sick animals in time.

The handling facilities on a cattle farm are a direct reflection of the level of management on that farm. Good handling facilities are a prerequisite for efficient and safe cattle management.

Easy handling will prevent people from shouting at and hitting cattle out of sheer frustration, which could have a severe impact on animal welfare and also result in bruising. If basic good handling facilities are in place, it would never be necessary to hit animals with sticks or whips.

CRUSH PENS

The minimum requirement, even if you only own a few head of cattle, is to have a crush pen. You must be able to handle a cow or bull without injuring the animal or yourself. If you can’t do that, it would be better not to own cattle.

The type of crush needed is determined by the type of cattle and the number of animals to be handled. The height is determined by the type of cattle.

The average height is 140 cm, but an extra horizontal pole can be added to the top of the crush to increase the height to 180 cm when working with very wild cattle.

The average inside diameter of a crush pen is normally 70 cm, but it can be larger or smaller, depending on the size of the average cow in the herd, whose weight could vary between 350 kg and 550 kg.

There’s a big difference between the basic handling facilities needed for 10 head of cattle and those needed for a group of 100 or more.

With such a basic facility you can:

  • Effectively treat a sick animal.
  • Do ongoing treatments for parasites.
  • Vaccinate animals regularly.
  • Provide supplementary licks only to those animals that need it.

All small-scale cattle owners need such a basic facility, but it’s also suitable for commercial cattle farmers at their watering points. It’s very helpful for giving emergency treatment – such as assistance with calving or treatment of a tick-borne disease such as redwater – when cattle can’t be moved over long distances to the main handling facilities.

Also read:
Every cattleman needs a crush pen (10 animals or less)
Crush pen and basic handling for more than 10 head of cattle

FUNCTIONALITY

A few basic rules for effective facilities:

  • There must be holding kraals before and after the crush pen and they must be connected. Some cattle will always escape from a crush pen and you must be able to get them back if something like vaccinations is being done.
  • The entrance to the crush pen must have one straight side, otherwise it will always be difficult to get cattle to enter.
  • Gates connecting kraals must always be at the side, otherwise it will be difficult for a single person to herd cattle from one camp to the next.

These may seem like basic rules, but on more than 50% of farms I visit one or more of these rules are not followed, leading to severe difficulty in handling animals, frustration and injury to animals and people.

Easy handling will prevent people from shouting at and hitting cattle out of sheer frustration, which could have a severe impact on animal welfare and also result in bruising. If basic good handling facilities are in place, it would never be necessary to hit animals with sticks or whips.

Also read: A well-designed cattle handling facility

  • This article is a short extract from the Afrivet training course presented to small-scale farmers and livestock workers on commercial farms, and first appeared in Farming SA.