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.
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