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Air-powered head gate

12/18/2013 @ 1:07pm

There are 70 brood cows on Steve Barthelmas’ Circleville, Ohio, farm, and he can work the whole herd through a chute by himself, without fatigue, all day long.

The lifelong cattle producer powered the head gate on his cattle chute with an air cylinder.

“I’m by myself a lot, especially in breeding season. I put the controls on a swing arm. That way, I can swing it to the rear, chase a cow into the chute by myself, open the gate, and close it on her while I'm still standing behind. Or, if I want to, I’ll stand in front of the gate and make the cows back out. I can also work it from the front.”  

Barthelmas says he opted for air over hydraulics because the latter is expensive, noisy, and messy. Also, that amount of power wasn’t necessary.  

“Farmers can get caught up thinking everything has to run on hydraulics. I worked in the printing industry for a while, and that equipment is operated almost entirely with air. A chute door isn’t real heavy, and every farmer has at least one air compressor around – maybe two or three. It’s expensive to go out and buy an electric hydraulic pump,” he says.

“I did go through two different cylinders and different hoses before I found the right amount of air and pressure to snap the gate shut fast enough,” he recalls.

In use (and sometimes heavy use) for two years now, Barthelmas is very pleased with the modification.

“Synchronizing cows with artificial insemination, I’ve got to run each cow through two or three times. In the fall, I palpate and preg-check, plus there are vaccinations and the times I treat for illness, plus worming. That manual gate gets pretty heavy,” he says.  

“I used to use ropes and pulleys and try to work it myself from behind. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t,” he chuckles.  

Barthelmas only had to buy the cylinder and control valve, and he says everything went together in about 12 hours.

Since he does use the chute year-round, it’s housed in his pole barn. The compressor sits about 75 feet from the chute, so the noise doesn’t bother the cows. 

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