For those of you who are starting new herds or adding to the one you have, here are some tips to make sure you’re ready to receive new livestock.
Coordinate With Your Shipper on Lane and Gate Size
An eighteen-wheeler may fit through your gate, but will it be able to make it down the lane/road to it? Is your road wide enough for the truck to make the turn through your gate? If not, you’ll need to make some adjustments. You might need to find a different place to drop them off where the facilities match what your shipper is driving. Options for getting them to your farm might include transferring them to a smaller trailer using your neighbor’s handling system or a nearby sale barn. It might also be possible to use low stress livestock handling in combination with a temporary fencing laneway to move them to their destination.
Make Sure Your Arrival Pen Can Hold Anxious Animals
Animals being added to an existing pastured herd (for example, a bull being turned out) can be let right into the pasture within sight of the herd. But if you are unloading a whole new herd, or young animals, put them in an arrival pen. Not all animals walk off the trailer calmly (though many do, especially older cows). That means a one-wire electric fence may not hold them, especially if they’re not already trained to electric fence. They may stampede if turned out immediately and could escape your fences.
Putting them in a pen for a few hours or days will allow them to get over transport stress and fear from new sensory stimuli. While they are penned up, you can treat any health problems you observe. The new animals can also be taught to eat weeds and/or respect temporary electric fence at this time.
If, like me, you’re operating on leased land with no permanent handling system, you’ll need some kind of temporary corral. You’ll want something that at least visually appears to be a strong barrier. A multi-decade veteran cattle trucker told me that running cattle will stop for something they can see, but not for posts with poorly visible wire. Here’s what worked for me:
I stretched woven wire on 1.25” solid fiberglass sucker rod posts and put up a two-strand offset hot polywire around the inside of the pen, about 18” from the woven wire. Then I bought enough 1” x 4” x 12’ treated lumber to weave three boards through the woven wire on each 10-foot section of the pen perimeter. It gave the appearance of a board fence. Without the boards, the wire alone would have been hard for running cattle to see. I set up hay, water and mineral so that the cattle would have what they needed inside the pen and not challenge the fence.
For small groups of livestock, metal tube panels/gates work well. However, they usually are cost-prohibitive to use in the construction of a large pen. This is just one idea. I’d love to hear other suggestions. Just drop them in the comments section below!
Develop a Marketing Plan
Definitely don’t wait to think about marketing until you have something ready to sell. If, like me, you’re raising bred heifers or stock that you’ll be selling to others, start finding your buyers now. Reach out to your network – friends, colleagues, fellow ranchers and mentors. They might know folks who are interested in purchasing your animals.
You can always sell at auction, but keep in mind that then you’re relying on the right buyer showing up on the day your stock goes to sale. Auction commissions, trucking to the sale, yardage, and sale advertising will all come out of the check you get for selling your stock, so factor that in when you’re considering whether or not you want to advertise the animals you have for sale.
I hope you’re off to a great start to the grazing season!