Create Your Own Corral and Chute Spider Web

Published on Thu, 05/31/2018 - 8:45am

Create Your Own Corral and Chute Spider Web

 By Bruce Derksen for American Cattlemen Magazine. Photos courtesy of Rawhide Portable Corrals.

 Covering all the dos and don’ts of building new corrals and chutes or improving and adding to existing infrastructure would be like trying to hold back the ocean with a sand shovel and pail.  If you’ve won the lottery and have unlimited funds plus your choice of land suddenly available to you, there are likely a number of different decisions you will make than if you have a homestead with fifty year old rotting pens located in a hollow washed out mud hole.  Building new or expanding and improving existing corrals and chutes can be simple and basic, or as complex as a spider’s web.

First, what is it that you need?  Are you building these corrals for a large cow calf ranch, feedlot, or dairy operation with hundreds of cattle, a twenty thousand head feedlot, or eighteen cows, fifteen grass cattle, two dogs and a dozen cats?  Do you have eighty clear acres available or only minimal space?  What do you hope to accomplish with these corrals and chutes?  Whether you need to process a cow calf herd or run hundreds of varying weight feedlot cattle through the alleys and chutes daily, your requirements will vary.
The basic purpose of corrals and chutes is to hold, sort, direct, position, control and treat.  If built properly they will reduce operator handling time and effort, minimize animal injury and stress, plus allow a safe operation for anyone involved in the day to day tasks.  The answers to the above questions should point you in the right direction to help decide what you need to build or add to your existing infrastructure.  
So if you have secured the needed funds, property and desired numbers of cattle, you may want to expand on the basics.  Corral systems should always consist of some variation of collection alleys, sorting and holding pens, crowding pen and tub, single file chute and a head-gate and squeeze unit.  You can add almost countless items including but not limited to concrete flooring, an adjustable ramp and loading chute, metal gates and poles solidified with concrete, palpation cages, scales, blind boxes, calf tables and light poles.

For those with a tighter budget, there are still ways to improve your existing corrals, sorting and treating areas that won’t drain your bank account.  One of the most important features to update and improve on is drainage.  There is nothing worse than working and treating cattle in mud and slop because your facilities are located in a rain attracting pond.  Raise clay areas in the alleyways, holding and sorting pens so when sloppy weather hits, you can still work in reasonable conditions.  Strongly consider adding concrete to the crowding tub, chute and squeeze area.  Without rebuilding entire corrals, you can replace old wooden panels with steel gates and metal posts set in concrete.  Adding a few extra gates along alleyways can be a fairly simple and cost effective way to make work easier and reduce stress.  Add catwalks to your tub and working chute area to facilitate moving cattle easier.  Consider adding an adjustable incline loading chute with a swivelling bumper or maybe an extra holding pen, or a single file sorting chute and gate in an existing collection alley.  Don’t ignore safety features like an escape board bolted to the inside of sorting and crowding pens, or small spring loaded gates to squeeze through if trouble arises.  Add a light pole in the treating area for those late night health or calving issues.  Check sales and auctions for used gates, hinges and even hydraulic or better quality manual squeezes that can sometimes be bought at the right price.    
And don’t forget about the fencing, gates and pens off the squeeze itself.  Install swinging panels to direct cattle to different areas and pens.  After treating is completed, don’t accept having to sort the herd a second time increasing time, energy and stress for the cattle and workers.
All these ideas can be done piece by piece without breaking the bank and over time will allow you to take advantage of your own version of the corral and chute system spider web, be it basic or complex.