Designing an effective livestock handling system is a really important job, as it can have large ramifications on both efficiency and, perhaps more importantly, the welfare of the livestock being dealt with. To the untrained eye, it might seem that a livestock handling system is easy to design, however those in the know are acutely aware of the many different factors that have to be considered before construction begins.
The first important decision to make is location. This is also perhaps the most important decision you’ll make, as once you start construction, you’ll then be tied to the location and won’t be able to change it. When looking for a location, choose the flattest ground possible, as cows are reluctant to move uphill, thus meaning that progress through the system could be slow. Also, make sure the cows can see their field or pen from the exit of the system, as this will encourage them to leave as quickly as they can.
Once you’ve found a good site, you can then start planning the construction. Perhaps the most important part of the construction process is the flooring, and it is vital that this surface is non-slip. Failing to provide this could result in injuries to cattle, and therefore financial loss to the owner. The flooring should also be completely uniform, as cows are curious creatures and will investigate anything different on the floor, such as drains. The result will be cows moving slowly through the system, therefore making the whole procedure much less efficient.
You should also design the system so that the cattle have plenty of space to move, and so that they don’t have to make sharp turns. The holding pen should also be spacious, so that the cow can easily move into the race, and it should also be circular, so that there’s no chance of a cow hiding in the corner. Also on the subject of the race, it should have one straight wall, and another built at an angle of around 30°.
As already mentioned, cattle are curious, so you’ll need to minimise distractions. Perhaps the biggest distraction of all is the people working at the site, so it is best to build solid walls, through which the cattle can’t see any of the workers and get distracted by them. It’s also important to ensure that the entire system is well lit, so that the cows feel more comfortable, and so that the workers are able to work much more effectively.
Of course, there are also many other things to consider when designing a livestock handling system, and much of these considerations will come down to the specific needs and challenges of your site. This is why it is prudent to enlist the help of a professional when coming up with the design, as well as the help of a professional throughout the construction process. It might even be worth asking someone with experience in using a livestock handling system to show you the ropes before you start using your own.