One of the things I frequently notice missing on a small beef producer's farm is a cattle working facility. Many small producers think that a working facility is too expensive, but without proper facilities basic management practices are not done. This results in the loss of a large sum of money.
Management practices like castration, dehorning, implanting, and culling open cows can greatly increase economic returns to the producers. Health practices such as vaccination, controlling parasites, and treatment of sick animals also improve cattle performance. Monetary loss resulting from the lack of these practices can pay for a simple facility in a year. Facilities constructed with quality materials will last for many years.
Small producers often complain that they do not have the labor to work cattle. Facilities that are properly built will allow two people to work the herd. If the crowding area and chute are built correctly, one person can keep a steady flow of cattle moving to the working area.
Requirements for a working facility depend on the size and type of operation. All good facilities consist of five basic components: holding pens, crowding area, working chute, working area, and loading chute. Good planning and attention to details in each of these areas can make your facility more labor efficient. The absence of a good crowding area and chutes that are too short and too wide are the most common mistakes.
Design recommendations and dimensions are available at the county Extension office. Give us a call at (706) 595-1815 or stop by our office at 116 Main St. We have a good publication that covers working facilities for small herds. I would also be glad to talk to you about some of the setups I've seen in use at various locations.