by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

SENECA FALLS, NY – Cattle handling for vet appointments and routine procedures is “an extremely important part of raising cattle and it’s part of the Beef Quality Assurance program,” said Mike Baker, Ph.D., beef cattle Extension specialist with Cornell University. Baker led a presentation on beef cattle chutes at the recent Empire Farm Days. The presentation highlighted several features of various chutes in a live cattle demonstration. Presenters showed how beef producers can effectively use them to improve handling cattle to reduce stress in cattle and make cattlemen’s tasks easier.

“If she’s not nursing well or you’re doing artificial insemination, you need a system where she’s safe and you’re safe,” Baker said.

Mike Brubaker with Double B Farm Supply demonstrated a manual head catch system Q-Catch 86 Series Manual Squeeze Chute by Arrowquip. Features like a rump bar with two sets of locking fingers help keep the animal forward enough in the chute so that its head extends through the headlock.

“The rubber floor is for your safety and the safety of the cattle,” Brubaker said. “The rubber floor is quieter and that helps calm them.” Moveable side bars allow caregivers safe access to more areas on the animal while it’s contained.

Myron Wigness with the Hi-Hog line demonstrated reversible equipment. “We go the direction of the cattle,” Wigness said.

He said veterinarians like it because the chute offers access to each side, top and bottom, of the animals. The chute can accommodate animals from 500 to 3,000 pounds.

“It’s valuable when you are pregnancy checking,” he said. “These animals aren’t as dumb as we think they are. Every time we put them in a chute, we’re training them.”

That’s why smooth operation and as pleasant of an interaction as possible is so important, especially for beef cattle, since they’re not handled as often as dairy cattle.

Wigness pointed out the one-hand operation and self-catch head gate, which is “like having someone working with you – only more reliable,” he quipped.

Twin Clover Equipment’s representative Skip Lear showed a chute with a self-catching head gate, with fully accessible panels, the Stockman’s Choice Parallel Axis Squeeze Chute. The chute includes side panels to allow access to the feet and sides. The chute adjusts from calves up to cows, a handy feature for operations raising beef.

Brian Manwaring with Powder River Livestock Handling Equipment showed a 2000 Series squeeze chute with manual or hydraulic mechanisms.

“We want them smooth operating and easy to use with rack and pinion head gates so you won’t have to work as hard,” Manwaring said.

He explained that the squeezing mechanism of the V-shaped chute actually helps calm cattle, which makes all procedures easier and can improve the efficacy of vaccination.

Ray Williams with Gallagher said once an animal is contained in a chute “the real work begins.” He spoke on how important recordkeeping should be for cattlemen, including animal weight.

“Weighing your animals is very important,” he said. “The federal regulations are changing. There are many reasons for tagging your animals and when you start getting a lot, EID tagging is really important. It can help make recordkeeping easier as you can scan the animals.”

By 2023, all animals required by federal law to have identification tags will be required to switch to electronic identification tags to improve food safety. The measure will also help producers better manage the health of their herd.

Knowing the animals’ weight can help dose more accurately, for example. He said the beef industry is moving toward dosing by weight.

“If you dose them all the same, you might be throwing away money,” Williams said. “You can have data available so you don’t over-dose or under-dose.”

Handheld EID readers allow farmers to pull up information on each animal and update records immediately on a tablet instead of relying on data input later from scraps of paper with illegible scrawls and transposed numbers or searching for misplaced notebooks. He said the tablets are waterproof and shockproof to stand up to the rigors of a farmer’s day.

With more accurate records, “profitability will increase,” Williams said. “You can use it to pair up cows and calves. You can see how each animal performs over time.”