Headgates and Squeeze Chutes - Many Options To Fit A Rancher's Needs

Published on Tue, 06/27/2023 - 1:12pm

Headgates and Squeeze Chutes - Many Options To Fit A Rancher's Needs.

 By Heather Smith Thomas.

 A number of companies produce and market cattle-handling equipment; there are many options to choose from when purchasing or upgrading a cattle-working system.  Here are examples from companies that have been making chutes for a long time.

This manufacturing company in Hawarden, Iowa has been making livestock handling equipment since 1961.  Dave Furlong, who works there, says they make five manual chutes and one hydraulic chute.  “We make two different automatic headgates.  One is the model A-25 self-catch, and the A-25T which has five more inches of working height, for larger animals.  We also make three model 30 headgates, which are manual.  We have the basic 30 and the 30-Tall, which is six inches taller, and the Tall and Wide, which is taller and wider, for larger cattle.  It is six inches higher in clearance, and 31.5 inches of width.  It can handle large bulls,” he says.

“We now have the same option on our 450 chute, so it can handle larger animals.”  Cattle today are larger than they were a few decades ago.

“We offer the five manual chutes plus the hydraulic and offer different ways you can configure a system, whether a tub, alley, portable or stationary.  You can have an alley load-out section as well.  If the customer has a barn and wants the chute in the barn, we want the dimensions of the barn, and have him or her draw it out—and then we get as close to that configuration as possible,” says Furlong.

“The tub, double alley or single alley can be basically any configuration that a customer would need.”  Some people want to use what they already have but want to improve it with a better squeeze chute.

“We try not to do custom work, but we have so many different options, for six, eight, 10 or 12 foot sections of alley—whatever the customer needs.  It’s already customized.  But if someone tells us they’d like to change something on our headgate we don’t do that; we already know what works,” he says.

“Veterinarians (with independent practices, or at colleges) are our customers and our dealers, and they know what works best for animal handling.  It’s common-sense equipment that works—tested thousands of times.”

WW Manufacturing
Sam Eck at WW Manufacturing says this company was started in 1946 by the Webster family.  “Then they began building squeeze chutes in the mid 1960’s and came out with a self-catch headgate in the late 60’s or early 1970’s.  We are still building that same tried-and-true headcatch today,” he says.

“In the meantime, since 1946, the company has grown and we now have three manufacturing facilities across the country—one in Livingston, Tennessee, another in Thomas, Oklahoma and one in Duncan, Oklahoma.  We manufacture everything from gates and panels to rodeo equipment and hydraulic squeeze chutes.  Last year we purchased another company called Stronghold, and now we are manufacturing that squeeze chute as well as some of the other products in their line,” says Eck.

“We market three major squeeze chutes.  Our Beefmaster line is a single-side squeeze, V-bottom squeeze chute.  It’s very simple to operate, and a relatively simple design.  It’s the tried-and-true model that has worked forever.  Another type is what used to be Stronghold and now is our parallel squeeze chute; both sides squeeze in at the same time.  We have two models of that one—the Producer 640 model which is a simple chute designed for operators with 20 to 40 cows who need an inexpensive chute, and our Seedstock 1100 model which is a manual chute but has a hydraulic assist on the squeeze.  You just pull a handle down, and with four pumps of that handle you can go from 32 inches wide to 12 inches wide.  It’s all done with manual hydraulics, and it has a hydraulic release, which is a pressure release valve that releases the squeeze.  It’s a high-end manual squeeze chute that we launched the first of the year.  It has been received well and we have several already on order,” he says.

“Then we have our hydraulic division.  These are for the producer who is running anywhere from 100 to 2000 cows or a feedlot that would run several thousand head through it.  We’ve got three major models of that one but each one is custom-built to the producer’s specs.  He tells us exactly what he wants on it, how he wants it to work, and we build that chute specifically for him; it’s not a production line,” says Eck.

The chutes have various types of headgates.  “On our Beefmaster, Producer or the Seedstock chute there can be two different headcatch options.  We have what we call our Beefmaster Selfcatch headgate that you can select for any of them, but we also offer a manual 30-inch headgate that you can get on any of those three models.  They also come with the option for rear control so a person can operate the manual headgate from the rear of the chute.  If you are working cattle by yourself and you want a manual headgate, this gives you the ability to do this,” he says.

Every facility and operation is a little different and a rancher might have a preference for one type or another.  “We also have different tailgate options.  The Beefmaster can have either a drop-down tailgate that you pull up with a rope—and you release the rope and the tailgate falls behind the animal to keep it from backing out—or the bi-fold tailgate which is like an elevator door, coming in from each side.  It gives complete, full access for the animal to come in.  This is the same tailgate that is offered on the Producer and the Seedstock models.”

The hydraulic chutes have a scissor-tail headgate that pivots at the bottom and opens up.  “There have been some cases where people want us to put a bi-fold headgate on that model as well.  It all depends on what the customer wants,” says Eck.

“The main thing that drives a choice of headgate is whether the cattle are horned or not.  With horned cattle, the producer generally wants a manual or scissor-type headgate,” he explains.

Dodge Manufacturing: Brute Cattle Equipment
Austin Gubbels is part of a family owned and operated company that began in 1968 in Dodge, Nebraska.  “We started as a manufacturer for a different company that was utilizing our design and did all our sales.  Then we split 20 years ago and called ours Brute Cattle Equipment and painted ours a different color.  We looked like a new company, but we’ve been around for a long time.”

Brute Cattle Equipment designs cattle-working facilities, semi-loadouts, etc. behind the hydraulic squeeze chute.  “We produce the heaviest, heavy-duty hydraulic squeeze chute available.  The unique design of our headgate also makes it work the best.  The headgate is set at an angle to match the front angle of the shoulders of the animal.  Cattle don’t have square shoulders; our headgate is the most conforming to the animal of any chute on the market.” This makes it easier on the cattle and reduces bruising that commonly occurs when cattle are worked in a chute.

“There is data that shows 36% of the bruising that occurs is in the front, on the shoulders of the animal.  That’s a high percentage, and if we can reduce it even a little, there will be more useable meat and less trimming of that carcass, with more money back in the producers’ pockets,” says Gubbels.

“Our chutes and headgates are quiet.  We use a lot of poly/nylon plastic to reduce metal-to-metal contact.  There’s not as much clanking and banging noise that is stressful to cattle.  We make our chutes as quiet as possible,” he says.  They also offer all the standard options, like neck extenders, swing-arm controls, etc.

“All our chutes are custom-built and custom-ordered, straight from the factory.  There are no dealers; everything is factory-direct so we have control on pricing.  There is no third party or extra freight charges; it’s all straight from the source,” he says.  They ship anywhere in the U.S. and have also sent equipment to six different countries.

“We have a patent on the angled headgate design; we are the first and only company with that design.  We also have a couple patents on a fully autonomous squeeze chute that is not yet for sale (still in prototype stages), but there are videos showing how it works.  It catches the animal without a person running the headgate.  This speeds the process and reduces labor.  It is never drunk or hung over, never calls in sick, or not paying attention.  Even if you still use your full processing crew, we’re finding that even if we don’t replace a person, that person is more efficient.  He can be refilling syringes or tagger while cattle are coming in; he doesn’t have to set everything down to catch the head.  He can keep his hands full with whatever he is using and not have to stop,” Gubbels explains.  Someone working alone, with an animal that needs doctored or some other procedure, can do it alone.

The custom-built equipment will work in almost any situation.  “There are some things we won’t compromise on, however.  We won’t put in a facility that won’t flow correctly because that’s frustrating for the people working the animals and harder on the animals.  Some people have an existing facility but still want a full horseshoe design, the Temple Grandin design, but you need a certain radius of curve.  If you go any smaller and tighter curve, it doesn’t work,” he says.

Some people do better with a simple Bud Box.  “We like the concept of the Bud Box, but people need to learn how to use one.”  If they don’t have the proper training on how to handle cattle to utilize the advantages, and put too many cattle in at once or don’t understand low-stress handling techniques taught by Bud Williams, it won’t work and can be counterproductive.

“So we developed what we call a Bud Tub--a hybrid between a Bud Box and a traditional tub system.  There are videos on U-tube showing how our Brute Bud Tub works.  One of the things I don’t like about the Bud Box is that you have to be inside it with the animals, which is not always the safest spot,” he says.  If cattle only see people once a year when being processed and are wild and dangerous, a naïve employee may be at risk in the Bud Box if he/she doesn’t understand how to “read” and direct the animals.

“If a large operation has to put an employee in that spot, the time it takes to train that person to get to the point where they can ‘read’ cattle and respond the correct way will cost extra time and money.  If an employee is in a compromised situation you start thinking about insurance claims!” says Gubbels.

“The Bud Tub allows the operator to do everything from outside.  It’s a circular wagon-wheel design; cattle flow into the Bud Tub from one direction, with use of proper angles, and hit the dead end at the back of it.  The operator closes a gate behind the cattle, then steps up on a catwalk.  There is specific positioning of the walkthrough gates and position of our catwalks.  The operator shuts the gate and goes straight to the catwalk and walks around a more traditional tub where you can squeeze those animals down a crowd gate.  By the time he walks past those cattle on the catwalk to get the tub gate, he is positioned to work those cattle like a Bud Box, without even realizing it.  Where we put our double alley system is right by the gate that the cattle came in.”  They reach the end of the tub and want to turn and go out the way they came in, yet the operator has no idea that he is actually working the facility the correct way, using proper cattle psychology.  He just happened to do it because that’s the way the facility is set up.

“With an actual Bud Box, if you bring too many animals in, it doesn’t work; those cattle start spinning around it because there’s no place for them to go, and their stress level rises.  You never want to overload a Bud Box.  By contrast, with our Bud Tub, if you bring a few too many cattle you can still crowd them down with the crowd gate and they are in the right area, where they need to be, and the operator can do all of that from the catwalk outside the tub and doesn’t have to be in with the cattle.  It still gives you the option to crowd down one that is not cooperating.  With a Bud Box you don’t have that option and can only let that animal go back to the herd and try again a second time.  The Bud Tub allows for more human error.

“We feed 1200 head of cattle ourselves and are part of the livestock industry.  We are not just engineers and welders designing equipment.  We are cowboys first, and understand the animals.”