If you have been to Eden Shale Farm you surely noticed the steep hillsides of Owen County. Although beautiful, they do pose a challenge when trying to farm them. One of those challenges is having to traverse them when rounding up cattle to get to the working facilities.
There was a second, old set of working pens in the paddock area of the farm, but they were old, made of wood, and didn't hold cattle very well unless they were extremely gentle. To be able to collect weights on the stocker calves that we have this summer, we had to walk them a mile and a half one way to the main working facility in the bull barn.
The old system still functioned, but many of the boards were in bad shape and the tub, alley, and chute were badly rusted and always needed serviced before we could use them.
This year was the first time that we have had stocker calves on the farm. Dr. Glen Aiken, with USDA FAPRU, wanted to use the steers for a grazing trial in the paddocks. This meant that we needed the ability to weight the steers throughout the summer without having to walk them the 3 mile round trip to the other handling facility. To ensure the success of the trial Dr. Aiken procured the funding to be able to upgrade the old working pens so we could process the steers safely, and without having to walk pounds off of them. We also wanted the new system to be safe enough that we can have a field day and not worry about the pens or equipment failing.
The first step in the process was to remove the old wood pens so we could begin laying out the new system. Ben Willoughby (our intern at the farm this summer) was a huge help in getting the old system tore out, and the new system installed.
After getting the boards knocked off and hauled away, we started pulling the wood post. We salvaged most of the posts and stored them in our "fencing barn" to be used for other projects down the road.
Once the post were pulled we had to fill in all the holes with gravel.
The new working facility pens are Tarter's Super Stock heavy duty panels. The panels are 6 foot tall and constructed of 2.25' pipe. This is the setup they use for their rodeo pens and it should be capable of holding even the wildest cattle (although we plan not to test that claim).
I have to say thank you to Tarter's Jared Watts for coming to the farm and helping us get everything laid out correctly and for helping us start the installation process.
For the complete installation of the facilities, there were about 70 post holes that had to be dug to a depth of approximately 3 feet. There were only about a dozen holes that we did not hit any rock at all. That means that we spent most of the month of July busting rock with a spud bar...
We worked on the project almost every day that the weather allowed. Slowly and surely we kept making progress, and before we knew it, the pens had come together nicely.
Now that we had the Tarter pens nearly completed it was time to remove the old tub and chute to make room for the new one.
The old chute and alley was transported together and the tub was moved in one piece on a separate trip.
The old system was hauled to the other side of the farm that does not have any working facilities. We plan to install it there so that we have to ability to treat sick animals without having to walk them to the handling facilities at the bull barn.
Now with the old system out of the way, we were ready to install the new system. The new tub, alley, and chute is Pearson Brand, supplied by McBurney Livestock Equipment out of Henry County.
Chris delivered the equipment and helped us get it installed on the existing concrete pad.
Once we got everything unloaded and lined up straight Chris bolted the chute and palp cage down to the concrete.
The Pearson chute has load bars underneath it so that we can weight animals while they are caught in the head gate.
This new system will give us the ability to safely process cattle. It will allow ESF new field day opportunities that were not possible with the old system. I want to thank both Tarter Farm & Ranch Equipment for the pens and McBurney Livestock Equipment for the tub, alley, and chute. But most importantly I want to thank Dr. Glen Aiken and USDA for the funding to allow us the opportunity to upgrade our cattle handling infrastructure at Eden Shale Farm.