When done correctly, there are some things on the farm that will last a long, long time. That is my hope with our recent project of replacing the chute at the main cattle working facility.
If you have been to a tour at Eden Shale, then you more than likely walked past our old chute and alley system. The barn that houses it was built in the mid 1960’s and was used to manage a bull test operation at that time. The “Bull Barn” as we call it, was built to hold 110 bulls in confinement. As part of the bull test project, each bull was walked through the working facility every two weeks to collect a weight.
The old chute was a Filson that had a For-Most Model 30 Headgate bolted to the front of it. I am unsure whether this chute was the original one placed when the facility was built in the 1960’s, but I do know it has been the main cattle working chute at Eden Shale for a very long time.
This cattle handling system has a homemade tub and wooden alleyway that leads up to a Paul Livestock box scale that sits in the alley prior to the chute. The only problem with this box scale is that it required an extra person to be able to weight the animals. Back in the 1960’s the farm employed as many as 12 employee’s therefore labor was not an issue. Today it is just Greg and I that handle the responsibilities, and to be able to operate the scales we have to ask someone to come help for the day. (Image 1)
The other design flaw of the original system is that it did not have a traditional palp cage. It did have an access door behind the chute that was only accessible from the left hand side and it was entirely made of wood. Once catching an animal in the chute, you had to walk around to the opposite side to access the homemade palp door. The wood door was not strong enough to safely contain a cow that really wanted to come forward into the chute. This created a safety risk for anyone that may be in the chute breeding, palpating, or otherwise working on an animal.
The old chute has served the farm well over the years. Since KBN took over Eden Shale Farm in 2013 we have run an average of 1,000 head a year through the chute. The past few years the bottom of the chute has started to rust out causing some serious safety issues to the feet and legs of the cattle coming through. The chutes condition had worsened enough to warrant replacing it with something more functional. (Image 2)
We chose to replace it with an ArrowQuip 74 Series Q-Catch squeeze chute. This model has two key features that the old chute did not. The first are the load bars that it sits on allowing us to weigh the animal while it is in the chute, thus eliminating the need for a third person to weight cattle. The second key feature is the dedicated palp cage that is part of the back of the chute. This will allow us to hold and refrain any cattle from entering the chute unwantedly while someone is in the chute working on an animal. It will also allow us to access the palp cage from either side eliminating the need to walk around to the far side just to enter the chute. This will speed up pregnancy checking considerably. (Image 3)
Since instillation we have worked a few individual animals through the chute and everything works as it should. The scales are a must to be able to dose animals correctly with the proper amount of antibiotic. I am looking forward to pregnancy checking the cows this fall when we can use the chute all day and get a better idea how much it will speed up our processing of a large number of cattle. Hopefully this chute will serve the animals at Eden Shale Farm for many years to come.