This is all great information and I lot to digest. I know I will use guardrails as I have a lot of extra ones on the farm currently
RDFF- for the alley's being 29" is that the number you feel like is a good common width when working both calf's and cows? Ones that want to turn around can be a real challenge when working them solo, so i'd like to try and get this part where I feel confident I can work them solo...
I sweated over the right width for quite awhile (because I WAS building a "permanent investment" and needed to get it right the first time... no turning back once you've cut and welded and spent all the $$$ and hours building!). My "permanent installation" wooden corral and lane at one place was originally built to be 30"-ish between rails. Wood posts driven into the ground on both sides... with each side independent of the other... so over time, that 30"-ish became wider in places, and now, significantly wider where posts have begun getting weak and rotting off... (so I've been tying one side to the other with twine... sound familiar?). I always had issues with smaller ones turning around in it... a real pain, and as the dimensions got wider (because the posts over time start tipping away from each other), bigger animals would attempt it too. IMO, ALWAYS
have one side of the lane tied to the other. This will greatly strengthen the installation... but it will also prevent the lane from getting wider from cattle pressure applied to the sides.
As has been said by others, you want them (at least your biggest animals) to be fitting "tight" as they go down through that lane... rubbing the sides snugly the whole way. 28" will be big enough for almost every animal you will ever have. 29"... gives you just a little extra room for when you have a really wide pregnant cow. But a cow's sides/belly is really soft, and can tolerate quite a bit of squeeze... Her hips/shoulders...i.e.: BONES... that don't have any give... aren't going to be that wide.
, all of that having been said, I believe the reason my fixed-width lane is working so well for all sizes
is because of those double high guard rails at the bottom, set 3" above the floor (top edge of the top rail at about 27"). That narrows the bottom part to 20", JUST below the round of the belly of that large cow... she's literally sliding her belly along on that rail the whole way.
Those rails add alot of strength/rigidity to the lane, and they're high enough then to deter the calves/yearlings from wanting to turn around. They're obviously SLOPED on their top edge.... so if a calf tries to climb up to try to turn around in the wider area, he'll slip off... I've never actually seen one try this, but I probably just didn't notice, because he was immediately not successful. You'd only notice him if he actually is causing a problem, or slowing down the flow.
And the bottom floor area isn't so narrow so as to be more difficult for a cow to waddle down through there. You've really essentially just built the shape of the lane right around the shape of the cow. This is the concern when you use a "V" shaped alley... very narrow at the bottom, so the cow kind of is forced to "walk the chalk line"... she's not as stable on her feet then. Why is this done? To achieve a narrow area at the bottom for calves, and a wider area up at the cow's belly for the cows. The guard rails do the same thing... except they do it in a shape that more fits the shape of the cow, and they allow the floor width then to be more open. Easier for a man to walk down through there then too.
Don't make anything permanent until you've run your cattle in and out and thru it for at least a year, unless you just really like cutting stuff loose and redoing it.
Absolutely! Great advice. I don't think I'd ever make anything permanent again. Get yourself some of the heavy 24' freestanding panels, just enough to do what you THINK you want to do. Could use them for the lane too... just set them so they're 28" or so apart, and throw a chain over the top on each end to keep them that width... the cattle will run underneath the chain at the height of the top rail. Or weld up a couple of rigid brackets to place over the top and secure it at that width. You could even bolt guard rails on a couple at the bottom just for this. And you can hang a couple of gates on the "entrance end" on them for your "Bud Box crowd gates" like I have. Pretty simple, low cost, safe! And perhaps just as important, you get to try it out, make changes, even set up the whole thing wherever you NEED to work cattle, instead of having to get the cattle to your working pen
SSCattle, using those longer
, stronger panels will make you a longer, stronger, IMPENETRABLE (wreckproof!) lane. You won't be sorry! That means when you go around the back end to "load" the lane from your Bud Box, you'll be able to "load more critters" inline, per trip back there to "load". You don't necessarily NEED cut doors on the entrance to the lane... if you use two crowd gates across your panel-created Bud Box. Open the gates in opposite directions (first one toward the holding pen, second one into the Bud Box), run the cattle from your corral into the Bud Box, closing the first gate as you come up behind the cattle, and locking it to the upright of the heavy panels. Move toward the cattle, they'll walk past you and turn to go into the opening in the lane as you bring the other crowd gate along with you behind them. Lock that 2nd crowd gate to the same vertical post the other gate is locked to (V shaped "lane" formed by these gates then, but very secure, can't open up "too wide"). The crowd gates have now added a little less than 12' to the length of your lane. Cattle can't turn around now at all, and you've probably got enough lane length for 5-6 cows (just the right number at a time for handling through a processing system). So now you can go up and work all of this group through the chute, just by walking alongside to prompt the next one forward. Use a rump bar that can be locked across the panels to keep them forward as needed. It doesn't HAVE to be fancy.... just functional and safe!