Cattle Yard Design

cattle yard design

When working with designing or improving your cattle yards it is very important to consider the animal’s natural instincts. Common behavior of livestock will help operators handle animals quietly and calmly, and design yards that work with, and not against, these behaviors.
Labor efficiency, operator safety, productive stock-flow and low-stress cattle handling are the key factors to keep in mind when investing in handling facilities.
Working with cattle flow
Firstly be sure to build yards on level ground or slightly uphill – cattle resist moving downhill.
Because cattle have a 300 degree field-of-view and can see threats from almost all directions circular yards create better flow and less visibility of threats. Cattle also prefer to move back towards their paddock, so circular yards work better if the stock are moving back towards where they entered the yard.
Cattle Races
Cattle move more easily through a curved race because they cannot see people standing by the squeeze chute. The ideal race length is between 8 and 12m being long enough to draw cattle in but not too long that it causes a problem if one turns around in the race. For small lifestyle blocks a 3 – 5m long race may be suitable. Internal width of 680 mm and up to 700mm.
Ensure the entrance of the race is not too dark and does not appear to be a dead end. Cattle do not like to move towards bright light or shiny reflections so yard orientation should avoid situations where stock in the race, forcing pens or on the loading ramp are moving directly into sun or shadows and that the handler is not looking into the sun.
Cattle Crush
The crush is used to restrain single animals for operations such as pregnancy testing, spaying, artificial insemination, cross branding and injury treatment. A head bail is included for ear tagging, dehorning, administering ear implants, eye treatment and other operations requiring head restraint.
Crush gates need to be sturdy, swing freely and have latches that are easy to use. The gates can be constructed of 38 to 50 mm pipe or similar-sized material. The maximum space between horizontal rails should be 220 mm. To prevent animals from kicking through, pipe gates should be blanked with plate steel to a height of 850 mm from the ground. Cattle crushes need special design consideration and Reptec is able to design and help install these.
Loading Ramps
Build the loading ramp with a slight fall in the ground towards it – so the stock truck can roll back into it – rather than having to power uphill in reverse into it. Ramp floors need to be non-slip so that cattle do not become distressed or injured. They should also be designed in a way the prevents hollow noise. Steel floors should not move or buckle under weight and animals should not be able to see the ground below. Ideally, ramps should be 750mm wide between the rails and at least 3.5-4.6m in length to give the required rise to reach the ideal 1.2m.
Gates and Rails
Posts should around 200mm diameter and cemented into the ground, steel rails around 75mm diameter or heavy-duty timber for the sides. Timber cattle yard rails need to be a minimum of 150×50. Top rail height, in close-working yards, should be from 1.7 m for quiet cattle to 2 m for infrequently handled fractious cattle. Fence height in receiving and cooling yards should also be 1.7 to 2 m.
Gates should swing freely and preferably have self-closing latches so you don’t have to put your arms through gaps trying to hook a latch. If cattle push against the gate while you’re hooking a latch or your arm is through it … you could break an arm or lose a finger. Reverse or pin gudgeons should be used so that animals can’t lift gates off their hinges
Safety and hazards
Your yards should also take into very careful consideration the safety of the people operating in it. Walk-through areas should be nonslip, there should be no protruding objects, and you should use material of sufficient strength and durability. Provide easy operator escape avenues from yards such as manways, foot holes and open rail construction. Reduce mud problems by providing good drainage, concreting the race, graveling the pound and forcing yards, and removing shade from boggy areas.
Keep Cattle Calm
Cattle move with ease when they are calmer so it’s important to take steps to keep them calm while in the yards.

  • Make sure they are not left hungry or thirsty
  • Avoid hitting and use electric prodders sparingly.
  • Avoid having sick or injured cattle in the yards
  • Keep barking dogs and noisy operations well clear of the yards

Animal Welfare
Avoid handling cattle in the heat of the day. Animals work better in cooler conditions. Overcrowding should also be avoided as it causes confusion, significantly increases handling time and predisposes cattle to injury. Cattle need social contact and should not be left on their own and as mentioned above animals should not be left hungry, thirsty or without suitable shelter.
For help with your cattle yard design or alterations contact Reptec.