Every cattleman needs a crush pen


By Nan Smith | 23 June 2017
crush pen; cattle

A crush pen is an essential piece of infrastructure on a stock farm; without it the farmer cannot treat injuries, vaccinate, dose, inspect at close quarters, check hooves or deliver a calf when the mother is in difficulty.

The handling facilities on a livestock farm are a direct reflection of the level of management on that farm, says Dr Danie Odendaal. “Good handling facilities are a pre-requisite for efficient and safe animal management,” says Danie.

Easy handling stops people from shouting at cattle and hitting them out of sheer frustration. Let’s face it there isn’t much that is more frustrating than a bunch of animals running off when you need to handle them.

The yelling and rough handling makes animals tense and anxious and causes bruising. Bruised carcasses are worth less at the abattoir.

Personally, I forbade the use of sticks and electric prodders on my cattle, and treated upgrading of the crush and the crush pen as a priority. Even if you only have a few head of cattle you must have a crush pen, where you can handle a cow, or a bull, without injuring the animal or yourself.

If you can’t build a crush pen, try cabbages instead of cattle.

The diagram shows a very basic crush pen, that can be built with freshly treated gum poles for a little more than K1 000 (R1 500) which is a fraction of the value of a mature animal. If it’s possible to use local material, you can halve the cost.

crush pen
The crush pen depicted here can accommodate two heads of cattle. The stockman works from outside the crush.

DIMENSIONS OF THE CRUSH PEN

The type of cattle and the number to be handled usually determines the type of crush you will build. The average height of the crush (above ground) is about 1.4 m (140 cm) but it can go to 1.8 m (180 cm) with the addition of an extra horizontal pole at the top of the crush. The extra height helps when you are working very wild animals that are not used to handling.

As a stock management principle, the more you handle your cattle, the easier they are to handle and the less stress you will put on them and on yourself. There is a direct correlation between stressed animals and diminished profit – believe it.

The inside width of the crush is usually 70 cm but it can be wider depending on the average size of the cattle to be handled. Smaller animals weigh in at an average of 350 kg and 70 cm is quite wide enough for these cattle, but the bigger animals at 550 kg average weights could use a little extra width.

A small-scale livestock farmer with up to 10 animals can make do with the crush shown here.