Ensure that you have the right facilities: a crush pen, a neck clamp and a squeeze chute. These are the basics. You’ll need strong mind too.
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Producing beef cattle on a small farm does not require elaborate or expensive infrastructure. Cattle do well outdoors under widely differing weather conditions and you can allow them access to an open-air pole shelter. In an enclosed building, proper ventilation is important for maintaining good health.
Design the infrastructure to make your job easy and safe, thereby minimising expense, time and labour. Effective working facilities include a crush pen, a neck clamp and a squeeze chute.
The crush pen and neck clamp are used for vaccination, deworming, branding and close examination. They can also be used to help a cow with calving. The pens and squeeze chute confine animals that need to be handled and driven into the crush pen or neck clamp. Well-designed handling facilities reduce animal confusion and stress. High stress may lead to poor performance, affecting meat quality. For this reason, never use an electric cattle prod.
Store fodder out of the sun
Maintaining feed quality is crucial. Store feed, including hay, straw, silage and grain, in a dry, well-ventilated building free of rodents. Forage exposed to direct sunlight loses nutritional value. Wet hay loses value and palatability and becomes a safety and health hazard due to the possibility of combustion and mould development. Rodents damage feed and spread disease.
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Elevated feeding racks and bins reduce waste and prevent the spread of internal parasites and diseases. Many types are commercially available, or you can make your own. An adequate and reliable clean fresh water supply is essential. Many types of water troughs are available from local feed or farm supply stores. Alternatively, recycle and modify old barrels or bathtubs for this purpose, but clean them thoroughly before use. Never use any container, especially not a plastic one, that has contained chemicals.
A convenient, well-drained site
Place pens, feedlots and crush pens at a convenient distance from feed storage facilities. The site should be well drained, so that water flows freely away from feed storage, working facilities and roads. It should also allow free access to trucks, tractors with trailers and other machinery for unhampered offloading, feed processing and cleaning. Correct and safe transportation is a must in every cattle operation.
A 750kg or 1t truck and trailer are convenient for a small beef operation, and can also be used to transport and disperse hay.
This article was originally published on Farmer’s Weekly.