There are four pastures on our farm that we use to rotationally graze our cattle throughout the year. And at any one time, cattle are on at least two of the fields, spreading our herd out. In order to give us flexibility to work, load and manage the cattle in any field, we use metal panels that can be hooked together to make a working area in any field. For the number of cattle we typically work, we have 10 panels for the corral, two sections of a Priefert alleyway and a wishbone trailer for our Priefert head gate.
The morning after catching and relocating the last of the three heifers (the Dixie Chicks – Mahalia, Aretha and Shirley) in the Mountain field, the whole setup had to move the South Field. Without taking time to fetch the tractor, we disassembled and piled up the panels and alleyway. Yet again, we were in to a day’s work before breakfast. After laying down the setup in an area the cow couldn’t reach, we took a break to grab a quick meal and feed the rest of the farm animals. Heading back to the Mountain field with the tractor and a trailer, we loaded all of the panels. In spite of being tied down with a ratchet strap, as the tractor pulled to the gate, I watched helplessly as most of the panels slid off of the trailer into a heap. After an exhausting morning wrangling cattle followed by loading the heavy pieces by hand (each section weighs between 100lbs – 200lbs), we left the nine panels on the ground and continued with just the alleyway.
With the threat of an approaching snowstorm, the next day’s project quickly became recovering the panels and building the corral in the South field. This time, the tractor provided the lifting power.
An assortment of webbed straps are very useful aids in lifting heavy items on the farm. Along with hooks welded onto the tractor bucket, we can move just about anything. The purple straps I chose to lift the panels are about 6ft long with a loop at each end. I wrapped one on each side of the panel and then slid the strap through the bucket hook.
One panel at a time, we unloaded and laid out the alleyway, trying to arrange each section in the appropriate order and orientation.
Cattle are so curious! The heifers wandered around us the whole time, checking out the tractor, sniffing the trailer and getting in the way of swinging panels.
Watching the girls dance in and over the panels laying on the ground, it looked like they were playing hopscotch. Too funny!
Starting from the corral end, we assembled the alleyway. The center and end frames have 4×4 boards attached to the bottom with a hole drilled through each end. These enable the alleyway to be secured to the ground with rebar if a more secure installation is required.
With half of the alleyway standing, the second half is easier to connect.
This is the view a cow has looking down the alleyway, although typically there is a head gate or trailer at the far end. The sides can be adjusted closer together when working with smaller cattle or calves, so they can’t turn around.
Hazel surveys the completed alleyway setup as she strolls by to get a drink of water.
Once the alleyway was completed, we drove the tractor and trailer to the Mountain Field to gather the rest of the panels that had slid off during the previous trip. The corral panels are lighter weight than the alleyway so we did not use the straps to lift them in and out of the trailer, making the job somewhat quicker and easier. Although having to load them all a second time was definitely a chafe.
Finally, the “portable” alleyway and corral were assembled and ready for use in the South Field. Thank goodness for the tractor and straps, but the job was still a good workout. In a week or so, the two oldest girls, Hazel and Heidi, will be moved with the main herd in the Mountain Field. Both are old enough to breed, and have a date later this spring with Shane Jr, our red angus bull.
Later in the day, we fed the girls in the new setup. Every heifer ran to the trough to eat the sweet grain, inside or outside of the corral. Even the three Dixie Chicks were unfazed by the panels. Happy and calm cattle … nice!