Priefert: Better Beef Through Better Equipment

Published on Mon, 06/08/2015 - 1:48pm

To say that the cattle market is “doing well” would be a drastic understatement. Over the last year, the beef industry has seen price records shattered across the board, resulting in the strongest beef market that any of us have ever experienced. Today, more than ever, producers are recognizing the importance of best management practices for their herds, especially those practices outlined by the national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program.The BQA embraces a Total Quality Management concept, which not only focuses on food safety and meat quality, but also on proper animal handling because quality beef begins on the hoof. Cattlemen that are looking to improve the quality of their beef often need to improve the quality of their cattle handling equipment. While these improvements can represent a significant investment, the long-term herd quality improvement makes it a smart investment. To achieve the maximum “bang” for their buck, more and more individuals and ranches are opting to purchase portable panels to build or improve their cattle working facilities.While there are a number of reasons that make a modular system a good investment, let’s look at the top 8 advantages that producers can expect when selecting a portable system vs. a permanent installation:

Advantage 1: Cost Savings
Cost is one of the top considerations in any project. In many cases, the initial cost of a portable facility is less than the labor, material, and time costs of a permanent installation. When taking maintenance costs into consideration, portable panel facilities are almost always a more cost-effective investment than permanent. Another advantage that people often overlook is property taxes. Although the laws vary from state to state, many times the addition of a permanent structure, like working facilities, becomes a taxable asset, while portable or “temporary” structures do not incur these taxes.

Advantage 2: Portability
The portability of the working facility is a huge benefit. This allows for cattle working facilities to be relocated on your current property, to be taken with you if you move, or the panels can be repurposed into paddocks, fencing, etc., if you desire. Portable panels left over from downsizing can be sold if no longer needed. Adjusting for inflation, most modular panels purchased 10 years ago are worth as much today used as they were when they were originally purchased.

Advantage 3: Versatility
Portable panel structures provide versatility that permanent pens can’t offer. Often times, facilities are built on a budget with future plans for expansion, or the requirements of the facilities change over time, requiring modifications to the layout to accommodate these new needs. Portable panels can be moved and the structure can be easily expanded or reduced in size with minimal effort, unlike the permanent alternative. Once permanent pens are in place, change is a major undertaking. Depending on the permanent construction method, these modifications are often labor intensive and can require expensive third-party labor costs.

Advantage 4: Ease of Installation/Time Saving
Unlike permanent installations, no skilled labor from welders or carpenters is required. This can significantly reduce the cost of installation. Because portable panels are so easy to work with, two or three men can put up a complete cattle working facility in a fraction of the time it takes to build permanent facilities. Depending on the size and type of facility, installation can be completed in one or two days from start to finish.

Advantage 5: Adaptability
Portable panels give your facility the ability to easily adapt to changing situations, like times that you may be working only part of your herd. A common problem in cattle handling is having a holding pen that is too large and allows cattle to get past you when trying to move them. With portable panels, you can easily split an existing pen into two for improved animal flow. Conversely, if your herd grows, you may find that your permanent installation has an inadequate number of pens for sorting. With the use of a portable system, you can easily add on more pens. An added bonus of the portable system is the ability to purchase panels with an adjustable alley frame so that you can widen or narrow your lead up alley to better fit the size of cattle that you are working.

Advantage 6: Low Maintenance
There are a variety of panels available for building your portable facility that feature a high-quality, durable powder coat finish. This finish results in low-maintenance panels that look good and last for a long time. In contrast, most permanent installations require expensive rust preventative maintenance each year, along with new coats of paint every few years.

Advantage 7: Options
No system is “one size fits all” solution. Depending on the type of operation and herd size, there may be optional equipment that needs to be added to the system to assist with specific tasks. With a portable system, adding items like a scale, a palpation cage, or a calf table is easy.

Advantage 8: Safety
This is perhaps the most important advantage that producers can expect from a portable system. Permanent installations are often built using local welders or laborers who usually do not have experience with livestock. Given their lack of experience, they often overlook many of the details that are crucial to safety. These can range from sharp exposed edges to poor designs in regard to livestock flow. By selecting portable panels from a manufacturer with a reputation for building equipment with safety in mind for both man and animal, portable pens will often offer safety features not found in permanent systems.With the many advantages listed above, it’s easy to see why so many producers are electing to build a portable cattle working system. However, with a variety of portable options to choose from, it is important to select the right equipment for the job, especially when your goal is to improve your management practices. To stay in line with BQA recommendations, producers need to look for equipment that will reduce handling stress on cattle, that will make management practices easy to perform, and that will be safe for the animal and operator. Luckily these are all qualities that can be found in a top-quality portable system.The BQA’s Total Quality Management approach has been instrumental in helping cattle producers adopt better management practices for their herds. It has also helped producers realize the importance of having the right cattle handling equipment. By selecting equipment that reduces handling stress on cattle, producers see increased meat quality and feed efficiency. Having an efficient working facility also makes it easier to perform important management practices, leading to better record keeping and healthier herds. Additionally, selecting equipment with safety in mind leads to fewer injuries to animals and producers. For more information about the BQA guidelines, visit or contact your state BQA coordinator. There are numerous publications and videos available from the BQA to help you design the right cattle working facility for your herd.   

Equipment Spotlight
With a wide variety of equipment providers in the industry, we wanted to hear how the BQA guidelines affect the equipment manufacturers. We asked Priefert Ranch Equipment, known for their innovations in the industry, what goes into their design process. “When we say that our equipment is ‘Built by Ranchers, for Ranchers,’ it’s more than an advertising slogan; it’s the truth.The Priefert family has been in the beef cattle industry for over 50 years, so many of our equipment designs and our innovations come right from the ranch.” says Courtney Dyer, Assistant Director of Sales & Marketing for Priefert Ranch Equipment. Dyer says that every piece of Priefert Ranch Equipment is engineered and built with quality, durability, and safety in mind.These are all qualities that come together very nicely with the BQA’s recommended management practices. One of the key elements of the BQA program is safe, low-stress cattle handling. Dyer says that Priefert’s equipment is designed to do just that; be safe for the operator and low stress on the cattle.“Whether you’re talking about the BQA-recommended curved sides on our squeeze chutes to better fit the shape of cattle, or our quiet, easy-to-use sweep systems with numerous safety features in place for the animal and the operator; our equipment helps make it easy for producers to adhere to the BQA’s Best Management Practices.Our goal is to help take the ‘work’ out of working cattle, so that it’s easy on the cow, easy on the cowboy.”Located in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, Priefert has been building equipment for the American rancher for over 50 years. For more information on the equipment options that Priefert has to offer, visit them on the web at or give them a call at 1-800-527-8616.