200 to 600 Cow-Calf Pair Facility

This facility is ideal for 200 mama cows and calves or more. The owner of this ranch in Texas has 600 mama cows that pass through this facility every year. A set of six holding pens, every 2700 square feet, connected to the facility with a long alley that allows sorting cows and calves into separate pens, then they sort the calves by sex. Most of the heifer calves are retained as replacement stock, and the bull calves are castrated and kept separate on large pastures from the heifers.
The steers are contracted to a large feed yard that pays a premium for preconditioning the steers before being sold to the feed yard. The preconditioning starts at the weaning time when they’re given the first of two vaccinations. A preconditioning program is typically a minimum of 45 days, in which a cow-calf producer will work to build the health status of the weaned calf before sale. Calves are also “bunk broke” during this time and acclimated to a dry-feed diet.
After sorting at weaning time, the cows go through the system and then move to a pasture nearby. A calf tilt table is moved to the front of the squeeze chute and chained to the head gate to keep it in place—the table tilts for castration. To prevent calves from turning around in the single-file chute, they push calves one at a time up the chute and into the tilt table. The bulls are castrated, vaccinated, and branded. Then the heifers are moved through the system, branded, and vaccinated.
This ranch does fence line weaning. The setup this rancher uses is one long narrow pasture divided in the middle; then, one half divided again to make three pastures. One large for the cows and two smaller for the calves sorted by sex. The result of fence line weaning is a less-stressed calf that bawls and fence-walks less than abruptly weaned calves. Research also proves that fence-line-weaned calves continue a close-to-normal growth rate and weight gain. The process takes about five days.
The calves remain in a familiar environment with the same feeding routine, grass, and water but still have visual contact with their mothers, so the only change they undergo is no longer being able to nurse. Minimizing change – and stress – for calves is a big plus to post-weaning health.
They used oil field pipe for fence posts, top rails, and gates. The solid sides of the curved fence are 5′ x 10′ 10ga—steel sheets that bend around the curved fence by hand and overlap by about six inches. Grooved concrete floors reduce stress and prevent injuries from falling on concrete. A metal catwalk not yet installed goes around the curved alleys inside radius and the crowd pen’s outside radius. The catwalk meets the raised concrete platform on the inside radius of the single-file chute. This system is ideal for 100+ cow/calf pairs.