Squeeze chutes

Agriculture.com Staff 09/06/2006 @ 8:30am

A lot of cattle producers with small herds have gotten along for years with nothing more than a working chute and a headgate (or a rope). But generally speaking, herd health and operator safety would both benefit if producers added a squeeze chute to their facilities. A squeeze chute fully restrains an animal by squeezing it from the side.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky developed enterprise budgets for 50-cow herds with a $5,000 investment in handling facilities that included a headgate and chute. They projected a return over variable costs of a little more than $20 per head due to a higher calving percentage, higher weaning weights, and a lower death loss for both cows and calves. That was enough to pay for the facilities in five years.

Before buying a squeeze chute, you need to determine exactly what kind of animals you're going to run through it. A tame, medium-size cow is a lot different animal than a large bull or buffalo.

Some squeeze chutes push straight in, while others form a V shape that helps support an animal. The Canada Plan Service gives the following guidelines for the inside widths of the chute at the bottom of the V shape:

Six inches for 250- to 400-pound calves.

Eight inches for 600- to 800-pound animals.

Twelve inches for cows and heavy feeders.

Fourteen to sixteen inches for larger bulls.

The Canadian researchers say that on the best squeeze chutes, both sides swing in equally. That keeps the animal balanced.

Animal scientists with the Alabama Cooperative Extension service list four basic types of headgates: self-catching, scissors-stanchion, positive-control, and full-opening stanchion. Once again, you need to know what kind of animal you'll run through the chute. For example, self-catching gates don't work well with horned cattle.

Lots of options are available:

A door for giving injections in an animal's neck is almost a necessity in order to avoid damaging expensive cuts of meat.

A service door or palpation cage provides access to the rear of animals.

Hydraulic squeeze chutes take some of the effort out of operation.

Many of the 20 manufacturers listed on the next page make several models of squeeze chutes. Use the links to locate information online.

A lot of cattle producers with small herds have gotten along for years with nothing more than a working chute and a headgate (or a rope). But generally speaking, herd health and operator safety would both benefit if producers added a squeeze chute to their facilities. A squeeze chute fully restrains an animal by squeezing it from the side.

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