This farmer has developed a series of handling facilities for his cattle that save on labour – and sits in a saddle and controls his crush with ropes, just like a jockey with reins on a horse cart, to divert cattle to various pens.
Skilled labour is not always available and sometimes farm workers are needed elsewhere. For this reason, Henk Human of the farm Kiepersol outside Lindley in the Free State province of South Africa has devised ways to enable him to easily and quickly sort and manage his cattle.
He and his wife, Hannetjie, have various farms in the Lindley, Kroonstad, and Bethlehem districts, each with his or her own Brahman enterprise.
Cattle farming normally requires a lot of labour and it takes a lot of effort to get everything done before the sun sets – from vaccinating and branding cattle to sorting them into various pens and getting them loaded onto lorries.
Henk’s “farmer’s patent” to do practically everything by himself involves a crush that is adjustable, so that he can work with cows and calves of different sizes, and a second crush with a diverting system that he can control from one position and sort cattle into different pens depending on size or sex.
It all starts at a round pen, from where the cattle can be sent to the loading bay or crush. The circular pen has a swing gate that is anchored in the middle of the pen. This works like a clock’s minute-hand and is adjustable – it can swing 360 degrees. The cattle are herded from the holding pen to the circular pen. As soon as it is full, Henk closes the holding pen. Then he can get the cattle to move in the circular pen to the loading bay or crush by using the swing gate.
Welded to the side of the circular pen is a horizontal peg. There is a mechanism on the swing gate that hooks against this so that it can only be pushed forwards, unless the farmer disconnects it. In this way, the cattle can’t push it back if they decide they want to turn around and escape from the circular pen.
As the circular pen empties, while Henk is diverting cattle to the crush or onto the lorry, the space for the remaining cattle gets smaller and in this way they are prevented from unnecessarily running around or jumping.
The cattle that are not loaded up are directed through an alley out of the circular pen to the crush so that they can be injected, dosed, or vaccinated. This is under a roof so that Henk can work in any weather. He is ably assisted by his Border Collie, Leeu, who stands next to the crush and nips at the cattle (without biting) and barks at them to hurry them on if they lag behind.
He also has a second crush where he does dehorning, artificial insemination and branding of the cattle. He adjusts the width of this with a metal mechanism that has “teeth” at the bottom, according to the size of the cattle with which he is working. He makes it smaller for weaners so that they cannot turn around.
JOCKEY IN A CHAIR
Then Henk goes to the cleverest part of his handling facility. He climbs up the side of the crush, where he injects and doses the animals, until he gets to a chair from an old-fashioned planter, right above the crush, where he sits down. From there, by means of a system of ropes and pulleys, he can open and close the crush and then sort the cattle one by one to a left or right-hand pen. He does it as fast as the cattle move out of the crush; left, right, left and so on until the crush is empty.
Then he climbs down and refills the crush with the next lot of cattle.
“This system makes the work flow swiftly and smoothly, because it has been designed to meet my needs precisely. With just one worker, you would never have to leave the control seat,” says Henk.
There is one other important factor that allows him to do a lot of work in a very short time. He handles his cows calmly. “You must never shout and hit when working with cattle.”