Livestock handling system – Medium sized beef farm
AC & SE Quinney, Reins Farm, Sambourne, Warwickshire
Adam Quinney farms 350 head of suckler cows, bull beef and dairy heifers.
The previous system was fairly makeshift consisting of a few gates and a crush. People were getting knocked about and hurt, albeit not seriously, but this led to a certain amount of hesitancy when tasks had to be done.
Issues such as tagging were coming to the fore and it was becoming difficult to deal not only with compliance issues but also to carry out the kind of stock management that was needed.
What was done
The current handling system was started in 2001 and is described as 'a work in progress'.
Adam first did a bit of research and has observed handling systems at home and abroad to see what works. He set himself an objective of what the system needed to do and has built this in a modular basis as time and money became available. Building the system up in this way has also meant that changes could be made to incorporate improvements and new ideas.
The key things to consider are:
- Collecting pen to get cattle filtering into the race
- A race that allows cattle to flow in a natural way and is adaptable for different cattle sizes.
- A good crush – can be basic in design but it is important to leave sufficient room in the metal work for upgrades. A head scoop has proved very effective in controlling cattle for tagging and clipping.
- Non slip flooring – properly grooved concrete is good but hardcore sub-base and road planings can also be very effective although it cannot be readily washed down
- Shedding pens need to be large enough to cope with all sizes of groups eg if you operate groups of 50 cattle you could have group sizes ranging from one to 49 so the shedding pens need to be flexible or large enough to cope with this.
It is also worth thinking about a loading bay. The one at Reins Farm is arranged so that the door ramp is almost flat when down. This also goes over a strop attached to the side gates to keep them in place removing the need for bits of string or chains.
When complete, with a top of the range crush and roof, it is estimated that the cost of the system will be around £15000.
There is now much more confidence about carrying out any task and as a result it is possible to apply a lot more effort into both herd and individual animal management leading to an increase in animal health welfare.
Being able to easily check weight gain it has been possible to improve marketing by ensuring stock are not over or under weight for particular customer requirements.
A notable cost saving has been achieved in terms of vet time, approximately half, for pre-movement TB testing.
The handling system does represent a substantial capital investment – but it does need to be offset against the lifespan and animal throughput. The actual cost per animal per treatment is very small and can often be recouped in labour time saved.
Health and safety benefits
The risk of cattle handling injuries has been greatly reduced and led to improved confidence in carrying out handling tasks.
The curved race used here has worked well and the temporary ply 'trial' side sheeting will eventually be replaced with weatherproof stockboard. The boards were deliberately left lower along a portion of the race to allow neck access for TB testing.
The race is made particularly effective for different sizes of cattle by having adjustable width sides near to the crush entry. The race can easily be reduced in width from 750 mm for suckler cows to 400 mm which makes smaller cattle go into single file and prevents them turning before entering the crush.