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Let's talk head gates!

 
master steward
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My plan this winter is to build a small cattle handling facility on my farm, to have in place before I bring any livestock on site. I've been looking at head gates, and I see two kinds: manual and automatic. They're both "manual" in my opinion, there's no motors or hydraulics or anything, but it's the actuation of how it opens and closes that is the difference. One is a sliding door style, like walking into a home depot or other big box store and two doors part, one sliding to the left and one to the right, and sliding back together again. The "automatic" kind is on hinges, or pivots really, one at the top and one at the bottom of each door, and they swing partly open into the chute, and when a cow walks into it bumping her shoulders into each door, the doors come together securing the bovine's neck, then to release, a lever is pulled and the two doors swing outward and the cow walks through.

Do any cattle handling folks here have one or the other kind, and can you comment on what you like or don't like about how they function? And if you were to be buying a new one, which would you choose?
 
pollinator
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First of all, I don't have cattle. My main cattle experience with adult cows is helping with pregnancy testing events where a herd of 500-600 head are being tested. These cattle are not comfortable being handled, since they are essentially range cattle. So they aren't the easiest animals to handle, nor are they gentle on the equipment. The squeeze chute used is a Silencer Chute, a hydraulic well built piece that can really take a beating and keep working. But it's one very expensive piece of machinery, not the type of thing a small herd keeper would be using. The doors on the head gate pivot rather than slide. Sliding doors for these cattle wouldn't work because those girls are rough, tough, strong, and quick. They'd blow right through sliding gates.

I guess what I'm trying to say, keep your cattle used to being handled and either style should work. I've seen dairy cows follow a handful of grain into a head restraint with no fuss at all. But then, those milking cows are handled at least twice a day. They have been well gentled since birth.

 
pollinator
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I have both kinds and I would say I prefer the "sliding door" type because it seems to adapt to different sizes better, doesn't "miss" as much for most operators, and it's easier to release an animal that is pushing on the head gate.  This is an item that can often be found used for a small operation -- I have a few squeeze chutes that are too broken down to use the squeeze anymore, but the head gate part is really all I need.

 
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I prefer sliding door head bails.
Our one at work has a hydraulic damper?  Instead of a ratchet. It's almost silent and you have a long lever for good leverage on even the biggest bulls.
But the crush crate with head bail cost about $15k.
Free range grass fed cattle farm not a cafo!

On the dairy farm down the hill they have it integrated into the gate at the end of the race.
It's quite simple one side is fixed and the other pivots from the bottom and has teeth with a clicker at the top so as you squeeze it automatically locks with each click.
I'll try take a picture tomorrow.

 
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My suggestion is to get the animals first.

When I got into sheep, I built a ton of stuff I thought I needed for them, like a head gate, a hood trimming table, and footbath...I never used any of it.

In the end I found different ways to do what I needed too, so I would get the animals first, and then buy what you need, as you need it.
 
James Freyr
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Travis Johnson wrote:My suggestion is to get the animals first.

When I got into sheep, I built a ton of stuff I thought I needed for them, like a head gate, a hood trimming table, and footbath...I never used any of it.

In the end I found different ways to do what I needed too, so I would get the animals first, and then buy what you need, as you need it.



I can understand this approach, but I feel like risk of injury may be different from a 200lb ewe compared to a 1200lb cow. My wife and I think it would be best to have something in place, when the event arises that one of us need to safely restrain a large animal. I wouldn't want to ask a veterinarian to administer care to an animal such as a cow in an open field. Cows are big, and I believe simple movements from an animal of this size, even when not intentionally being aggressive, can possibly cause serious injury to a human. My wife is a DVM, but she hasn't practiced in twenty or more years and she would not consider palpating a pregnant cow or banding a yearling bull unrestrained. I try to do my best to be prepared for all kinds of events and my wife and I feel like it's best to have something like this in place, waiting and ready for an unplanned need to use.
 
gardener
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I have the brand that is blue. It's automatic, but the vet uses it in manual mode. I have yet to use it which is why my description is vague. Lol.

I agree they are not needed with sheep. We did the same as Travis except we bought it rather than build it.

One tip about the contraption in regard to cows. Use it when you don't need it. Get them walking through it to get used to it. And run all the cows through it when you do use it. Getting my 7 through it is easier to do than just one. They follow each other. We have a central corral with 3 paddocks. We can position it so they have to walk through it to get to the pasture.

The fact that the vet uses it brings up a valid point. Ask the vet. Get one he is comfortable with and knows how to use.
 
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