Today's Corral Technology

Published on Thu, 03/31/2022 - 11:27am

Today's Corral Technology.

 By Maura Keller.

 Determining the best corral products and techniques within the ranch and farm environment is part art, part science. It requires a level of understanding of how to corral animals across a variety of landscapes and range of area sizes.

Steve Langrell, research and development manager, Arrowquip says that one of the first things people should be aware of is the importance of proper handling systems.

“First of all, it is a matter of safety. Working with cattle can be dangerous and getting hurt can be very costly financially,” Langrell says. “Secondly, the effects of stress on cattle are not insignificant. Stress can cause reduced weight gain, poor reproductive performance, and reduced ability to fight disease.”

Arrowquip started in Tamworth, Australia, 1989, on the family farm. The company owners eventually moved into the city of Tamworth and into a purpose-built factory, where they built a range of cattle handing and sheep equipment. In 2003, the company decided to start on a small-scale in North America, on a small farm in Manitoba.

As Langrell explains, while the first few years of the company history experienced slow growth, through continually refining the company’s equipment, expanding their range, making an effort to listen to customers, and making some very smart business decisions (including investing back into the company), the growth over the last few years has been exponential.

“From our beginnings in North America, we have focused almost solely on cattle handling equipment, as we have a passion for this industry and our goal is to make things easier and safer for the rancher,” Langrell says.

One of Arrowquip’s key products is the portable corral that can be towed easily and set up in pastures quickly and effortlessly. The company also offers bow gates in different lengths and heights as some people want them so they can ride their horses through. They also offer several different lengths of panels to pair with the gates.

“We do not currently offer a light duty panel as we are focusing on the designing fit with purpose corral designs,” Langrell says. “When working cattle in high pressure situations, it is generally not a good idea to use to lighter panels. In-house, we have the ability to design fit-for-purpose corrals. We have a large design library already available and often in most cases, they only need just a little tweaking to fit individual customers’ needs.”

Langrell says another thing to consider is getting a cattle handling system design that is fit for a producer’s unique purposes, as one design does not fit all.

There are very few cookie cutter operations out there. A good handling system will allow you to gather, direct the flow, hold, sort, and position,” Langrell says.

In addition, the panels a rancher or farmer uses in their  handling system are important in regard to the height of the panel and width of the rail.

“We felt this was so significant that we went as far as to make our own custom rail, and the rail spacing of the panel. The reason for this is if the rail is too small and the panel too low, cattle will start to challenge them much more readily and will try to jump them,” Langrell says. “This is when you not only can wreck a panel, but you can easily get a busted leg. If the rail spacing is too far apart at the bottom, you will get animals trying to put their head through, and when this happens, they can try and push. I have seen an animal move a whole system before that used thinner, shorter panels with too wide of spacing between rails.”

The pinning system is also important as you want to make an efficient handling system. As Langrell explains, you will most likely need some three-way and possibly four-way connections. The finish of the panel is important to consider as well, especially in coastal areas with the salt and high humidity.

“Even if panels are powder coated, as with any paint or finishing product, there is good quality and bad quality. Through testing, we found there is a significant difference between different types of powder coat and finishing processes,” Langrell says.

Langrell also recommends trying to try and eliminate square corners in your systems, as this is a challenging when handling cattle because they retreat to corners, and if they back into them, that can cause trouble.

“Overall, your system should match the capacity of your handling system on the front, as flow is key, you want it constant and consistent,” Langrell says.

Kyle Peters general manager, Linn Post & Pipe Supply has been in the livestock fencing business for almost 50 years and is proud to have their third generation working in the business.

“We have been providing our customers with innovative quality fencing options since our founder Emil Peters patented the first continuous fence panel in the 1970s,” Peters says. “A little over 15 years ago we began building portable corrals in addition to our permanent fencing and have enjoyed large growth in that area since then. The Wrangler Portable Corral System was our first system we brought to the market on our own and have since followed that up with the Bulldog Portable Corral System around six years ago.”  

Peters says one of the major factors a rancher should use when looking to purchase a corral is durability. If the corral you buy won’t hold up then all the other features are of no use.  

“You have to start with a quality built corral before you move on to decide what will make that corral the right fit in your operation,” Peters says. “Some will want a basic corral pen to gather the cattle and load out while others will want to sort and work them right where they’re at and some just to catch a single sick animal to doctor it.

The Wrangler Corral Systems offers the flexibility to add to or delete from in order to suit whatever a producer is need to do with their cattle. Peters stresses that safety has to be a concern of anyone who is around cattle, including safety for the cattle being worked with.  

Twenty years ago, John McDonald, founder of Rawhide Portable Corrals, developed the first portable hydraulic corral on wheels with multiple pens and 200-head capacity. While this initial innovation was the result of McDonald’s goal to improve his own handling of livestock using portable panels, McDonald’s portable corral invention captured the attention of many producers throughout the industry.

Through two decades of continuous improvement, McDonald now offers Rawhide Portable Corral customers a series of different models. The Rawhide Original features two sizes, (the standard which is ideal for 40 to 50 cow/calf pairs and the large version for 80 to 100 cow/calf pairs) and is a basic catch-pen model. This system boasts fast, 10-minute labor—free set ups, a hydraulic jack, self-contained power unit and battery with a solar panel, and the ability for the entire system to be driven through with a bale or cube feeder.

The company’s advanced Rawhide Processor model has become the most popular corral that the company makes. Available in multiple sizes and various features, including a head gate, hydraulic adjustable alley, and loading chute, the Rawhide Processor can accommodate a wide range of corral needs. In addition, quality materials play a key role in Rawhide’s portable corrals.
That’s why Rawhide uses 13-gauge material for all of the panels and ¼ and 3/16 square tubing to ensure the equipment can handle the activity of moving cattle.

Moly Manufacturing also offers a big technological advancement in today’s corrals. In addition to the company’s well-known remote-controlled Turretgate, a remote-controlled tub that offers continuous forward flow, while keeping the operator safely out of the high-impact area, Moly Manufacturing has recently introduced its new All-Purpose Corral. This new corral system boasts added brace stabilizers, galvanized steel wheels hinged directly to the fence surface, adjustable headgates for different sized animals, and lightweight design, allowing for easy assembly, disassembly and operation.

Key Considerations
From portability to connection designs to materials used, there are a wealth of considerations to make when selecting corral systems.

Some questions prospective corral customers need answered include:
• Are there safety gates designed for quick exit from the pen when things get a little too heated?
• Are the panels tall enough to deter cattle from trying to go over the top of them?
• Are sharp edges and corners eliminated or minimized to protect the animals and you?
• Does unfolding or folding up the pen utilize a system that would be a safety hazard to you if it fails?
Peters adds that safety shouldn’t be limited to just while you are folding or unfolding the corral but also taking it from location to location. Ask these key questions:
• Does it have an increased risk of turning over in tight corners or high wind situations because it is built top heavy?
• Is the corral within legal US highway road width (102”), enabling you to travel on all highways during the day or night without special signage?
• Is the corral weight so heavy on the towing vehicle that handling and braking are issues you might face if you ever encounter a dangerous traffic situation or be the cause of one?

Key Advancements
There have been several key advancements in the corral sector that improves the efficiency and safety of the equipment for producers and the animals themselves.

Langrell grew up with his very first memory being making corrals from tamarack poles, then to panels made of 1” by 1” tube rails with a very poor connection system. In comparison to the panels Arrowquip currently builds, the rails are 1.5” by 3.5” and have a very easy-to-use connection system that allows users to pin in four different directions.

“We have better bow gates now with improved slam latches that allow you to effortlessly throw the gate shut to help avoid injury, as using chain latches in high-pressure areas is extremely dangerous,” Langrell says.

End users also now have the ability to make an entire cattle handling system out of “pin together” components, allowing for multiple types of configurations. This also lets the producer move it easily, should they do something different in the future, and allows for easy reselling as the resale value on these systems are good.

“Also, I believe people are taking low stress cattle handling a lot more seriously now, as we realize the benefits to not only the animal, but it makes sense when it comes to your bottom line,” Langrell says. “So, those of us that are in the industry are putting much more effort into helping the producer design a system that works for them and their cattle.”

Peters agrees that portable corral systems have come a long way since the beginning of their use on ranches.

“While the first portable corral was an improvement from a manually transported and set up pen that is moved and set up with manual labor, that has long since changed with the utilization of hydraulics,” Peters says. “Years ago you had to lift panels up onto racks and lift them back off and carry them to the desired location to be joined to another panel to create your pen set up. Now there are systems like a Wrangler and Bulldog corrals where the panels have rolling wheels underneath, panels that are already connected together, and all the manual lifting work has been replaced by hydraulic cylinders to do it for you.”

Looking Ahead
The industry has learned a lot in the last few years in terms of the appropriate system designs of corrals. In addition to efficiency and longevity, today’s corral systems require far less maintenance than those of year’s past.

If you have wood corrals and you want them to last a long time, it is recommended you use treated lumber or a good hardwood. It also is preferable to have your corrals in a well-drained area and not have too much standing water. Also, the quality of the lumber available now is not what it used to be. As wooden corrals age, you will need to keep an eye out for rotting planks and posts.

“With metal systems, there is a lot less maintenance, provided they are built heavy enough,” Langrell says. “Of course, you may damage something in your corrals, but with pin together components, it is easily replaceable. If you are in coastal areas, it is more critical than ever to make sure you have a quality finish on your panels, so they last for years to come.”

Peters adds that a portable corral is a great tool for a rancher to have at their disposal. “If the details are thoroughly thought through before purchasing, they can give you many years of reliable service and make your har job a little more enjoyable.”