Total cattle newbie with some (probably silly) ???'s

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Apr 6, 2009
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OK, first off, I admit it, I know nothing about raising or keeping cattle beyond what I learned growing up helping my uncles on their beef cattle farms (Herefords and Angus).

We've been breeding, raising, and showing Quarter horses for 20 years, and recently moved to a larger farm. We've always wanted a few head of cattle, but did not have enough acreage for both horses and cattle. We have 20 acres - about 80% of that is in lush pasture (fescue) and the rest is wooded. It's all fenced and cross-fenced with a combination of very heavy four board wood (80%) and stock wire (20%). One pasture has a pond, and there's water to the others.

WARNING: Here's the silly part... We really just want to have them around basically as "pasture ornaments." We're not looking to sell them (except for any bull calves), eat them, or make any money. (We're already used to the not-making-money part after 20 years in the horse business.)

I've decided on Belted Galloways because I just plain like their looks and they are smaller-framed. I'm hoping they are relatively well-tempered.

My questions:

What brand of set-up of headgate, chute, etc. would allow us to safely manage a small herd of 4-6 without breaking the bank? (I had planned on Priefert, but good grief, that stuff is expensive!) We do not plan to ever have any bulls, and will be doing our breeding either AI or offsite.

Safety is the number one concern, but it also needs to be easy to operate, and operable by one person if need be since there are only two of us. Plus, it needs to be one that will catch smaller-framed animals.

Is it totally out of the realm of reasonable to think you can manage without a chute/headgate? We're used to being able to restrain and treat horses without that type of equipment, but I know it is not the same, and don't want to get hurt. (We plan to start out with two weaned heifers and halter break/gentle them.)

If we really do need to have facilities in place, is it feasible to place the facilities on the long wall behind a run-in so as to utilize one wall of the run-in to crowd the cattle into the chute-headgate?

Thank you very much, and feel free to give me any kind of info you think might be helpful. I'm used to being knowledgeable about stock, and it's kind of embarrassing for me to be such a greenhorn! :dunce:
ask all the qs you want.theres no silly or dumb answer your q no you dont need a squeeze chute to work can work them in a corral with a put a good head gate on the chute.haler breaking the calves is a good idea.

We'll start with a chute and headgate in a corral and add as we need to.
Wow, finally one I can answer!
Hi oakrunfarm — you're doing pretty much what I've done, even down to the belties.
What I've found is that almost everything can be done in the paddock with cattle that will come when you call/feed. That's how I do worming and stuff like that, though obviously I'm reliant on pour-ons.
But AI needs a crush/headbail. No doubt about that. You can make one in a holding yard on the long side (I would do it in rather than out — others might differ because of course an obstacle in a holding yard is a problem when pushing the cattle up the chute). But you will need that headbail.
My father in law said I should have bought 2 farm gates and set them up parallel the width of the cattle, with one able to swing, both attached to strainers — I never got around to it and haven't worked out the headbail part, let alone whether farm gates would be strong enough. Probably cattle panels/gate would be better (better access too).
But in the absence of AI, 2 years ago I put a weaner bull in with the cows, and when he was old enough he serviced them. He wasn't big enough to tread down a fence, but he could do the job. I know there are potential problems mating a too-young bull, but it worked for me.
By the time the calves were born and the cows reserviced, the bull was starting to push at fences, so off he went... (In the freezer — not your ideal, but again, it worked for me.)
So for the above operation, all in all, I just had to have the loading ramp and holding yard. And those I got cheap off a guy who was going alone and undercutting the others — he did a good job of setting it up for me, with a yard big enough for 5 and a ramp.
At a push — a probably insane push — you might be able to do AI in a horse float, if the divider bar was modified or added to? Just a thought.
As for temperament, I've got the cattle coming when called and standing for a pour-on drench, but they don't like it, and they will kick (my cows weren't really tamed fully, and aren't used to being touched). Teaching them to come to a bucket has the drawback that if you're in the paddock with a bucket but no food, they will get angry and try to knock you down. You seem to be approaching the taming part the right way.
Good luck with it and I hope my disconnected rant is helpful. :tiphat:
Thanks Stripey! That's a lot of good info. We might go ahead and get our heifers, and work on getting the rest of the facilities in place once we can get a handle on where exactly to layout and locate everything. I just don't want to get behind with things and have to rush. We live in a warm climate, so we don't have to worry much about the run-in for right now. We plan to partially-confine them to a 12' x 24' stall in the barn (with daily turn-out) for gentling at first. I am sure the horses will LOVE that! :lol2:
If you have access to an old dairy that used headlock stanchions (the gang type where you look them all at once) you can get by with that and a feed bunk that has it mounted on it. Makes it a bit awkward if you have to do anything in their ears nose or mouth but everything else including AI can be done in them.
Wow Red Bull Breeder, I'm impressed! :clap:
I guess you're a dab hand with a 'lariat'.
If I knew the 'ropes' I'd probably give that a try too...
lavacarancher":nq719kum said:
Red Bull Breeder":nq719kum said:
Na ain't nothing like that Stripey she's halter broke.

Halter broke or not, that's quite a feat. She didn't try to kick when you stuck your arm up her butt and the AI tube elsewhere? :lol: :lol:

Kicking isn;t a problem. It's trying to run back and forth as the swivle their butt. With your arm in there it sure decreases your mobility but it doesn;t hamper the cows any.
If you have pretty tame cattle the method of using a gate to pinch them either to another gate or wall, depending on what the gate is mounted too, will work just fine. Chain the end of the gate to the wall or other gate and slide a pipe or wood plank behind them and the will be somewhat secure. You can then put a rope on them too and cinch their head up secure and that helps a lot.

I did it that way for a long time until I felt I had enough head to justify a head-gate. Of course when I got one I wondered why I didn't do it years ago. Plus mine weren't what I would call tame and I had to try and rope them first and pull them up tight to get the gate pinched behind them. I still don't have a squeeze and probably never will as I don't really seem to have a need.
Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

It looks like having a few head and getting them young and spending time to get them halter broke might go a long way toward being able to avoid having to get a lot of equipment - at least initially.

I plan to make sure we want to keep them in the long run before having a lot of expenditure and then deciding it's not for us. (I think we're going to like it though.)

I was worried about not being able to get a vet to come if we don't have facilities in place. I also don't want to get injured because I was too cheap to put the right equipment in place.
From a safety standpoint -- you really need a squeeze. Get a manual squeeze chute (perhaps you have an equipment auction or something like that near you -- or ask around and you may be able to pick up someone's old one at a reasonable price)... we have a Powder River Manual Squeeze with a right hand exit (I'm glad for the side exit because some just won't go forward when you open the head catch).

...we used to wrestle calves for castration, etc. because we were too cheap to buy a calf table. Eventually we bought one and now the only question is why we didn't get one sooner!

Question for you: How expensive would it be to replace either one of you? Now how expensive does that squeeze look? Squeeze chutes should be mandatory... leave the creative cowboy up methods to those who are younger and heal faster!

Good luck.
THANK you very much for the input Davis. I used to bounce. Now I just break!

I've decided for sure that we need a headgate. Safety is important to us, so I am sure we will add a squeeze too. We live in a county in N.C. with more cattle than people, so I should be able to find something used.

Do you recall any threads that talk about the various brands and types? I just about had a heart attack when I priced the Priefert systems, so was hoping to find something less expensive. I really don't want to have $5,000-10,000 in equipment alone for 2-6 cattle.
You might check with your County Extension agent. Many counties in NC have portable headgate/squeeze chutes you can borrow for free if you're a member of the NC Cattleman's Association. All you need is a chute to back up to. Some also have portable scales if you want to weigh your cows and weanlings.
I still remember the first time I ever saw a head gate and the first time I ever used a squeeze chute. That was pretty impressive.

We had always ran them into a blind loading chute and slid boards or pipes in the rails to isolate them. We also used medina gates, trap gates, or medina hinge (whatever you choose to call them) with a lot of success. I still use a medina for a lot of things rather than the squeeze. It is just easier for some things.
Bandsaw":26ubjl6f said:
Some large animal vets have their own portable squeeze chutes.

Our vet does and it has been a blessing. He only charges $13 to bring it, so we can use his for years and years before we would justify buying one. We also have 2 gates close together we can use between vet calls.
SirLoin2":vdlqhg7g said:
"What brand of set-up of headgate, chute, etc. would allow us to safely manage a small herd of 4-6 without breaking the bank?"

You are wise to consider safety first, but it is not just your own safety you must consider.
How about the safety of your vet or the person who will do your AI? How about their safety and extra time spent because you don't have the proper facilities?

IMO (in my opinion) it doesn't matter if you have one head or 500 head of cattle, you need to have the proper facilities to work each individual animal regardless of the reason worked, for your safety and that of others who may be required to assist you.

I suggest you consult your vet as to what facilities he/she would need to perform a C-section or repair an anal or vaginal prolapse should it become necessary.

I can't tell you how many vets told me they don't return certain phone calls simply because there were no facilities to work the animal the first time they called.

And one last word of caution.
IMO the breed doesn't matter and it doesn't matter if an animal is halter broken or not. If an animal is in distress they very well may clean your clock just like any other animal.
Good luck
True, true, true. I have few cattle, all halter broke. I thought I could "get by" because they were very easy to handle. Murphy hit me up side the head last year. Streesed out po'd mommas don't give a crap how tame they "were" all bets are off. Spent the money on a Souix Steel calving pen which I use as my head gate and can even squeese in it. This thing is really neat and versitile.

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