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Beef Insider: Corralling calves
A mother's instinct to protect her young is a powerful thing. And that instinct can turn dangerous if you're trying to separate a calf from its mother.
"When spring calving season is in full swing, I hear of numerous incidents where a normally tame cow becomes aggressive and injures her owner by trying to protect her newborn calf," says John Krohn, who farms near Albion, Nebraska.
One story hit close to home when a cow charged Krohn's friend while working her calf. "Although there were no injuries, it could have been more serious," says Krohn.
To help safeguard his friend from future injury, Krohn and his father, Charlie, developed a device that alleviates this hazard. "The Calf Trap protects a person from the cow, while being portable and convenient," he says. "It's designed to catch a calf for ear tagging, giving shots, and castrating, and it also provides an area that safely fences a person and calf away from the calf's mother."
Attached to the side of a Yamaha Rhino at the front and rear receiver hitches, the trap consists of a cage approximately 8 feet long and 4 feet wide with gates that open on the front.
Calf trap features
- Front gates: Pulling a rope from the seat of the utility vehicle causes both gates to shut and automatically latch.
- Electric winch: The trap uses the electric winch on the utility vehicle to swing vertically with the push of a button. "Running the electric winch from the operator's seat on the vehicle allows you to raise the trap to release the calf once it is worked," says Krohn. "You also fold the trap completely vertical from the seat. Keeping the winch cable tight acts as a latch on the back to hold it tightly folded."
- Front latch: Once the trap is winched vertically, there is a latch on the front (a pipe you slide from the operator's seat) that holds the front of the trap.
- Front and rear gauge wheels: The small wheels take some stress off the utility vehicle when transporting calves.
- Calf box: A 2x2-foot box with a floor and front gate allows for easy loading and transporting of calf. "The mother has nearly full view of her offspring so she can follow along," says Krohn.
- Trap operation: To unhook the trap, a pin on the front and rear hinge points of the utility vehicle is removed. Then the counterbalance spring on the front gets unhooked, the winch cable gets unlatched, and the vehicle is completely free of the trap.
"The whole idea behind the Calf Trap is to prevent an incident before it happens," Krohn says.
Successful Farming Deputy Machinery Editor Laurie Potter compiled this report.
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