How to design and build better cattle yards

If you’re designing, redesigning or retrofitting your cattle yard, there are a few essential factors you need to consider. Understandably, the most important element that should influence the design of your cattle yard is the movement and behaviour of livestock. With years of practical stock handling experience, we know that yards should be designed to support the natural instincts of the animals. Here we elaborate on what those behaviours are and share some additional essential factors that make for a well-designed cattle yard:

  • Cattle behaviours: Understanding the natural behaviour of livestock is essential for the calm and quiet handling of animals. Some behaviours that impact cattle yard design are:
    • Cattle are natural herders and like to follow other animals. If they see the herd beside them in a race, they will stop moving forward. Livestock handlers can use loading ramps and forcing pens to keep the cattle moving
    • Curved races help cattle move easily and more naturally as they cannot see people standing by the crush
    • Cattle do not prefer looking into direct sunlight or bright reflections, so yard orientations should avoid scenarios where this happens
    • Yard entrances should be well-lit and not appear to be a dead end as that will prevent stock from moving forward
  • Location and site: Location is a primary factor when designing or redesigning a cattle yard. Choose a location that has access to an all-weather road and is away from hazards such as electric lines and structures. The yard capacity, slope of the site and the floor or ground surface should be taken into careful consideration to minimise the risk of trips and falls. Shade trees and water should be easily available for livestock from the yard location.
  • Workload: Before designing or redesigning a cattle yard, consider the current and future workloads and capacity of the space. The yard should be able to cater to various livestock operations and must be designed to suit handling techniques. A dedicated barricaded area is also necessary to protect handlers and equipment. The yard should also feature a number of access ways and emergency escapes, especially between the forcing yard and working area.
  • Materials: Cattle yards can be constructed using different materials such as steel, concrete and timber. The choice of materials depends upon availability, budget, the type of cattle and suitability to the weather. High-pressure areas such as gateways, forcing yards and races should have a sturdy construction and made of high quality materials. Gate posts should be strengthened with ties or adjustable hinges to avoid gates dropping or lifting.

4 things to think about before buying or building a shed

If you’re looking to buy or install a shed – whether it’s a farm shed, garden shed, warehouse or kids shed – then there’s a little bit of ground work that you need to do. Building versus buying a pre-fabricated shed is another decision altogether however, thinking about these four factors will make your job easier in either scenario.

  1. Purpose

    What is the intended purpose of the shed? This may seem a silly question to ask yourself, but sheds can be quite a versatile facility to add to your property. We encourage you to think about how you’ll use the space in 5-10 years and not just in the short-term. Is it going to be your backyard workshop, carport or simply a storage space for DIY tools? Thinking about this will make choosing materials a lot easier, but it will also allow you to budget for overheads such as lighting and heating/cooling.

  2. Council approvals

    Do you need council approvals for building a shed? Many customers tend to assume that sheds are exempt from building permits as they are not liveable areas, but this is not the case. If you are planning to use the shed as a workshop or a temporary liveable area, this often calls for an approval from the local council. Usually pre-fabricated steel farm sheds do not require approvals however, there are exceptions to this too. It is always best to check with your local council or building surveyor. At Steel Supplies, we help our customers navigate council restrictions and apply for permits where required.

  3. Materials

    Being outdoor facilities that cop harsh weather, sheds need to be built out of sturdy, hard-wearing materials. Steel is a low-cost and low-maintenance material that is excellent for storage sheds as it is weather-resistant and keeps the moisture out. It is becoming an increasingly popular material for farm sheds as farmers often need to store grains, feed and equipment in a well-ventilated area.

  4. Solid base

    A shed that is built on a solid foundation will stand strong for years. Never build a shed on a low-lying area that can absorb rainwater. Most garden sheds are built on existing concrete slabs however, concrete pavers are a reliable low-cost alternative readily available at home supplies stores. Other popular foundation options include timer frames, piers and gravel.

Why steel is the perfect material for sustainability

Aussie farmers need materials that will last through harsh conditions and hard times. When you’re running a farm, there’s no time to worry about rebuilding or replacing farm structures or parts. For those in rural Australia, it is crucial to get materials that last, so you aren’t waiting on deliveries when you need to do fundamental maintenance. Plus, sometimes you just get that season where the last thing you need is more unnecessary costs thrown your way.

Steel is the one material farmers have relied on for years for durability, longevity and strength, since steel is one of the most sustainable materials around. While Aussie farmers benefit themselves from the use of sturdy steel, the environment also benefits in ways sometimes not even considered. So, what makes steel so sustainable? Here’s just a few reasons why the material is number one for sustainability.

Steel is infinitely recyclable

Ever thought about where your steel came from? Once steel is made, it can be used forever as steel. The waste produced by steel is reusable, and there is no loss of quality when recycling, meaning recycled steel is as good as new. Each year, more steel is recycled than paper, plastic, aluminium, and glass combined in the US. The magnetic properties of steel allow it to be easily separated from other materials, so most steel scrap can be recovered from demolitions or projects where scrap is mixed together. This means any steel produced will last the distance and be infinitely recycled, so the steel you use on your farm has likely had a whole other past life in another structure, product or even another farm.

Using steel is not wasteful

Since steel can continuously be recycled, it means it does not end up in landfill. Materials like wood can only be used limited times before they end up in landfill or incinerated, but steel can be constantly remade into new steel. Steel can be recreated in any shape or form, meaning that no steel goes to waste in projects, since steel can be crafted into the exact specifications needed for the job. In comparison, materials like wood require off-cutting pieces, leaving unusable pieces behind, which often end up as waste. So, you can be proud knowing the steel on your farm won’t just add to a growing dump pile, but can be turned into the next best steel cattle yard or shed for future farmers.

A little goes a long way

Since steel is so strong, it doesn’t take a large amount of the material to support structures in buildings and other construction projects. To put it into perspective, to frame a 2000 square feet house would require around 40 trees using wood, compared to the steel of just six recycled cars. The high strength-to-weight ratio of steel allows steel to provide the same benefits as other materials, but with lighter foundations and structures, due to the lower density and weight of steel. So, you can save money and space on your farm by getting more strength with less material.

It lasts the distance

While other materials are easily prone to damage, steel has an unmatched resilience and strength. Steel does not rot, split, crack, warp, or combust like other materials like timber. Due to its resilience, steel can withstand extreme conditions and disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires, more so than any other materials can. The fact that steel lasts means there is no need for always recreating the material from scratch, meaning less frequent impact on the environment. Steel’s unmatched toughness also means farmers have a long-lasting investment when building with steel, so the focus can be on farming, not maintaining sheds or cattle yards.

It is important us Aussies take care of our home and do our part to protect it. Steel provides countless benefits to our society and farms, and it will continue to provide these benefits long into the future, due to its recyclable nature, durability and longevity. Creating something that does not deplete in quality and can be reused and recycled for future generations describes sustainability perfectly and is exactly what busy farmers need. Steel is certainly a material to be relied on by farmers in moving forward to a sustainable future.

Six factors to consider before choosing a steel supplier

Steel is a hugely popular metal used in residential, commercial or large construction projects. With many suppliers of steel products in the market, it can be overwhelming to choose one for the first time. It is important to do your research and perform due diligence on a company before signing a contract however, this is not always possible through online sources. Asking the right questions of your potential supplier is important and sometimes, the best way to research their credentials.

If you’ve never worked with a metal supplier before, consider the following factors before choosing one:

  1. Product range
    Choose a supplier with a wide product range so that you can have all your steel requirements met instead of sourcing them from different companies. Most suppliers are able to measure, quote and fabricate to order.
  2. Verified quality
    Lots of suppliers make heavy claims about selling high quality products however, these are sometimes not substantiated appropriately. It is important that you check if a supplier’s products have been manufactured to meet Australian standards for steel (ASXXXX). As a potential customer, you can request to see a copy of these product certifications issued by independent agencies.
  3. Processing equipment
    Most customers don’t care to find out about the equipment used to fabricate products however, this is an important factor to consider. Look for suppliers who utilise modern processing equipment and techniques rather than manual fabrication methods as that often means that if you need a replacement product in the future, it will be quickly available.
  4. Liability insuranceAlways check if your supplier has adequate liability insurance in the event that their products malfunction or do not work. This will cover you for any resulting financial losses.
  5. Volume rebate
    Steel products are often competitively priced so ensure that your suppliers prices are not over the roof. At the same time, incredibly low prices may equate to low quality products, so it is best to get a few quotes off suppliers and compare. Ask for a volume rebate if you’re buying steel or metal products in bulk as suppliers often offer this benefit.
  6. Experience
    Don’t be shy to question a supplier about their experience in using the products they’re selling. If you’re based in a rural or remote location, ask your supplier if they supply or service that location often. Extreme weather conditions, lengthy delays in delivery and replacement availability are only some of the issues that affect customers in rural areas.

Steel Supplies specialises in servicing remote and rural areas of Queensland and have years of experience in using, supplying, installing and maintaining their products in these areas.

Tips to build a stress free cattle handling system

In today’s environment, it is critical for cattle to be handled in areas that provide the least amount of stress possible to avoid any uneasiness to arise. It’s also important to consider placing the cattle in an area in which it is easy to operate for handlers, to ensure safety as much as possible. Steel Supplies Charter Towers builds their cattle handling equipment onsite, to the highest quality standards. In order to exploit the highest benefits and build an effective and stress free cattle handling system, a few methods should be considered.

People It is important for the handlers to remain calm and to resist the urge to panic consistently to avoid terrifying the cattle, and they must also be confident and assertive as cattle can detect fear and hesitation. The handlers must also know that, like us, the cattle have a range of individual space (flight area) around them and if entered by strangers the cattle consider it to be a risk and will move far from it. Learning the flight area guidelines can also be useful to the handlers to control dairy cattle development.

Systems Safe, simple and efficient are terms that should be kept in the handler’s mind when designing their cattle handling system. This will ultimately make the cattle feel comfortable with the handler. Important things to consider are:

    • Site – Place the cattle in a flat field to avoid uphill movements.
    • Layout – Ensure there is adequate space to maintain a strategic distance from the cattle making sudden, tight turns.
    • Orientation – Support the cattle through the handling system by ensuring the exit is back towards the field or home pen.
    • Lighting – Cattle are uncomfortable of moving in dark areas so ensure the entire system is sufficiently bright. This also implies working with cattle is less demanding
    • Floor: the floor must not be slippery and should also contain a uniform surface as anything distinctive. For example, depleted feeders will capture cows attention, making them stop and examine
    • Strong sides – handlers working outside the area will distract the cattle, so they should work in strategic areas where sides are stronger. For example, working at the gate would influence the cattle to gather in there and help the handlers to better control where the livestock is going
    • Holding pens – round pens work better as there are no corners for the cattle to stow away in. Pens should never be packed as cows require a lot of space to move into the race
    • Race entrance angle – It’s important to have only one straight side and another 30-degree angle

Steel Supplies Charter Towers

    •  will help you with designing and building the best cattle handling system for your farm.

Get a quote

    •  on our website,

contact us

    •  at 07 4787 4355 or send us an email at

sales@ssctowers.com.au

Steely resolve gets firm through the tough times

ENTERPRISING Charters Towers businessman Peter Doonan has survived a trifecta of floods, change of government and recession in the early years of his new business, pulling through to celebrate his company’s seventh birthday this month.

The Steel Supplies Charters Towers (SSCT) founder and entrepreneur heads regional and rural Australia’s leading supplier of steel products for the cattle industry, with a wide range of supplies from cattle handling products to steel shed fabrication.

Today, the company continues to progress strongly despite its rough beginnings, with Mr Doonan taking great pride in his survival in the challenging downturn.

“The timing of everything all at once was tough, especially because steel and most commodities were high-priced,” Mr Doonan said.

“That was a telling time for the industry; a lot of steel businesses went broke then. We were challenged as well, as business basically stopped for an entire month, but we hung in there even if it meant having to sell our steel under cost,” he said.

“Luckily, we had enough surplus stock and a bit of cash left over, so I made a decision to sell that steel as quickly as I could. After losing money for a few months, we started making profits again in about six to eight weeks.

“We also diversified our variety, with a number of options in terms of price and quality. This gave us a point of difference instead of selling the same stock as our competitors.”

While other companies folded during the recession, SSCT flourished and grew its business before eventually moving to its new and improved Flinders Highway premises 12 months ago.

Mr Doonan invests heavily in his staff and their development, saying he believes in employing people like himself, despite the possible personality clashes.

“We are so proud to have continued expanding during the recession and keeping our business – during the tough times, we never put a staff member off due to lack of work.

“There is always work, and we’re always busy. This is because we went from selling cattle gear to cattle yard designs, then branched out into implementing the equipment and putting it together.

“At the end of the day, our staff members are happy to go the extra mile and provide that extra service, which has been a great help to surviving the recession.”

Currently boasting 600 repeat clients and 3000 customers since its foundation, SSCT has fostered a strong customer service culture as Mr Doonan trained his staff to offer the best service available.

Each staff member has a background in the cattle industry regardless of whether they work in administration or trades – the SSCT team has combined industry experience spanning more than 200 years.

“Our big hurdle was finding strong sales and administration staff, but now we have a strong team.

“Business also varies according to the time of year – it’s usually quite slow over the rainy season so we do have to keep our sales team motivated and pepped up as well.

“That said, we’ll always have ups and downs in our cash flow, staff and consistency at work, as it’s all so dependent on the government and weather conditions.”

As business peaks and troughs, Mr Doonan has learnt to be proactive in his customer service, capitalising on business leads even during a lull.

Traditionally, the months from December to March are sluggish for SSCT. There was also a spike in cancellations after negative coverage of live cattle exports.

“Everything has to be timed so we make enough profit to carry on over the next six months with the wet season – that’s when we follow up with our customers to stay at the forefront of their minds.

“Also, even though we’re based in Charters Towers, we’re delivered stock to Western Australia and Tasmania, which people are really pleased with.

“We want our clients to feel like they can ring up and be comfortable they’re getting the right advice for the right price and good efficient service.”

Mr Doonan’s basis for staff support and customer service was fostered throughout his 10 years’ prior experience in the steel and fabrication industry.

Formerly working with a corporate steel company, he soon grew disillusioned with management and decided to go his own way in the region.

After finding his niche in the cattle industry, he aimed for simplicity in his new venture with much success.

“I saw that my work had become too corporate, sacrificing staff and customer service – things had become too complex and they weren’t customer-orientated any more. “The business ran on reports and lost their focus on staff and customers, so I decided that the time was right for me to leave.

“To me, my own business had to be started simply; I aimed for good service and turned us into an efficient one-stop shop where customers were coming into the yard, doing their business and being loaded and gone in 20 to 30 minutes.

“When you work for a big company which shies away from letting managers grow their sales, it really does suffer from a loss of loyalty.”

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Country entrepreneur shows city folk how its done

Peter Doonan tells us the story behind Steel Supplies Charters Towers and how the company stood tough during the Queensland floods.

It took me quite a few weeks to chase the super-busy man behind the Top End’s favourite steel supplier company. Yet, when I got on the phone with him, I was in for a sweet surprise: Peter Doonan is a down-to-earth person who has struck the right cord when it comes to starting and managing your own business.

“It all started like this”

Peter had a nice, fat-paying corporate job in the steel industry. As any passionate careerist and a forward thinker, Peter had ideas worth trying. But the corporate structure didn’t quite allow that kind of flexibility. Frustrated with the rigid and adamant methodologies, he went ahead to take a bold step which would become the number one choice of industries for steel products in Queensland.

“I managed the steel business for another company and I wasn’t happy about the way things were going. I tried but things didn’t change. That led me to found my own company,” Peter says.

A smooth take-off

For many small-medium sized businesses, the main hiccups are in the initial three to five years. But with his strategic approach and industry hands-on know-how, Peter had the smoothest first three years. As the company has grown, however, some of Steel Supplies’ hindrances have been pricing, change of government and staffing issues.

“A couple of businesses have gone broke on us. Sometimes there are problems of cash flow. But our biggest hindrance has been a natural one . . . the Queensland floods three years ago. The sales were zero and we were stuck. At that moment, however briefly, we didn’t know what to do.”

Tough times require tough decisions. And discipline. Peter, as a leader of his company, is a real-life example of this. How did he cope with the grave slump period?

“We did everything we could do. We marketed rigorously. Normally, when your business slows down, marketing is not the first thing on your mind. You think, ‘Well, marketing is an added cost for my business, let me just concentrate on other important areas and deal with marketing last’. But the truth is marketing is an ongoing effort. When business was hurt, we didn’t forget that. We continued to service our customers the best we could and carried out targetbased marketing.”

No looking back

So did the Queensland floods lead him to re-consider his choice? What if he were offered the same high-paying corporate job again?

“Not at all. There are highs and lows in the life of a business, but I never considered going back to a corporate job. I always had the entrepreneurial spark in me and once it was ignited, there was no looking back!”

If allowed to go back in time, Peter would only do a few things differently. Mainly, it has to do with employing key staff.

“I’d staff differently. Finding the right person for a job rather than grabbing anyone willing to work yields better results more often than not. I’d manage my sales team rather than being the sales team. Back when I started, I was doing my sales, marketing and business management. Given another chance, I would delegate the right job to the right person rather than filling my platter to the brim.”

Breakthroughs

Unquestionably, Steel Supplies Charters Towers has met heaps of breakthrough moments. Many of them have to do with over-delivering on a promise which comes with team-effort and taking the company to the forefront.

“I’ve had a lot of them and most wouldn’t have happened without the people at Steel Supplies. I try to motivate my team every time we bag a new project—and when we don’t. People are our biggest assets.”

Where to from here

The next six month’s goals are clearly laid: spend more time enjoying life than working. But wait, his work is his hobby. That explains why he enjoys visiting his cattle property four times a month.

“Yeah, I am lucky I got to choose what I love to do. Going forward, I don’t want to sit in sales, I want to manage the business and overlook it. The next six months I am focusing on that aspect. And, on achieving a work life balance. Right now it’s not really there where I’d want it to be,” he jokes.

Lessons in the fields

A true lover of the rural and rustic life, Peter spent three and a half years managing a cattle property so as to understand the needs of farmers closely while he supplies them steel. The experience has been nothing short of “profound”.

“Living in their [farmers’] shoes was something very different. I experienced it all—the rains, the floods, the droughts, the solo life.

“When you’re on your own and you have no one else to talk to, it gets. . . unexplainable. Your mind starts playing games with you. It’s even more stressful than a city life, or a corporate job, if you ask me. At least in the beginning. Then you start to become friends with it.”

The period was so deeply intense for him that Peter decided to buy the 10,000 acre property which he was only managing for these years. And even till this day, he and his family visit the cattle property every weekend.

Advice to new entrepreneurs

The biggest piece of advice is “start where you want to finish”. Peter asserts if you want to be in sales, try getting involved in your business’ sales department from the beginning. If you don’t want to finish in it, don’t start in it. Set your goals and align them with where you want to be in the long run. The transition is really difficult mid-way.

“Another thing I’ve definitely understood is this: a lot of people don’t understand marketing and its importance. Most mix up marketing and advertising. But advertising is different: anyone can pop an ad in the paper. Marketing is a continuous effort—a strategy.”

Peter used to market Steel Supplies in an ad hoc manner at the start because of the business. But after engaging Marketing Eye, he has been happily looking at the larger picture and not the small technical details of marketing.

Steel Supplies Charters Towers: company fast facts & strengths

  • Founded in 2005.
  • Quality products especially the
  • fabricated products.
  • Solid industry knowledge
  • Delivering the promise.
  • Customer service.

Looking for ways to help your cattle stay cool this summer?

Farmers will definitely benefit from the Cattle Yard Design Service. This service allows farmers to individually design their own cattle yard to suit their own needs and requirements. The Computer Aided Design (CAD) service allows you to see the designs that are sketched and allows you to view the final product to ensure your cattle yard design is customisable to your requirements.

Issues related to not having the correct shelter this Summer

Australia is a country that can experience one climatic change to another, and it makes it difficult for farmers to provide the most suitable environment for their cattle to live in. Due to severe weather conditions, productivity among the cattle tends to decline as they are more focused on finding shelter to survive. Reproductive problems among the cattle tend to rise due to lower semen quality which causes birth rates among the female cattle to decline. Newly born cattle are vulnerable to the hot weather without having shelter as they become dehydrated and this increases the deaths among the herd.

Furthermore, as shelters provide safety for the cattle by protecting them from the heat, it is necessary to provide protection for any extreme weather conditions. Another issue for cattle is the stress caused by hot weather tends to negatively affect the milk harvest, milk fat and protein percentages, causing conception and birth rates to diminish.

It is so important to keep your cattle cool with the right shelter this Summer. Now is the time to ask our experts at Steel Supplies Charters Towers to help assist you with designing and developing the most suitable shelter to match your and your cattle’s needs. Email us today at sales@ssctowers.com.au or give us a call at 07 4787 4355 to get a free quote.

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