Labor Savers

Efficiency Starts at Home

As profit margins tighten, the importance of productivity increases. Here's how some of our readers are doing more with fewer resources. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

With 750 cows to take care of, Rodney Walker, of Delta, Alabama, needs to save time and labor any way possible. Walker's time-saving plan begins the day a calf is born.

Walker or one of his ranch hands tags newborn calves with visual ear tags and enters information on the calves in the computer at headquarters. The first time a calf goes through the handling chute, it receives an electronic identification (EID) tag corresponding to this information. From that point forward, all of the animal's information is stored in the computer system and available on smartphones and iPads. Note that visual tags are still needed for identification in the pasture, as the range on EID tags is less than 2 feet.

The following are some additional tools to consider.


Gene Dubas and his son, Jarrid, of Fullerton, Nebraska, are busy ranchers with 260 cows at Dubas Cattle Company. With labor a scarce commodity, the two have found themselves big fans of the TurretGate (cost is $9,000).

Gene was recently out of town, and Jarrid worked 42 weaned calves in 24 minutes by himself with a TurretGate, giving each animal three injections and a pour-on dewormer.

The TurretGate, made by Moly Manufacturing Inc., swings 320 degrees and is designed to shuttle back through the turret to reposition behind waiting animals. The shuttle gate eliminates the need for a worker to swing a gate open into waiting animals and greatly limits the need for workers to be in the area with cattle.

The TurretGate is controlled remotely. It includes a swing function, a shuttle function, a reverse swing function and others. All can be operated from up to 100 feet away. TurretGates can be used in existing sweep tubs.

Dubas combines the TurretGate handling system with a Silencer Hydraulic Chute and a Tru-Test XR5000 Scale Head (cost is $2,799). This unit has a dosage calculator built into it and an XRP2 EID Panel Reader (cost is $3,486 with two antennas). He uses EID tags on cows and calves. As the cows flow through the system, Jarrid automatically knows the cow's number and can update health history along with other data.

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To feed his cattle, Rodney Walker's crew harvests 3,000 to 4,000 round bales of hay every year. One of Rodney's top labor savers is a 10-bale EZ-Haul Hay Handler (cost is $5,625). The 42-foot trailer replaces four trucks and drivers that would have been required to transport round bales from the field to storage barns. "All we have to do is pull one lever to roll 10 bales off the trailer," Walker said. "Our crew is able to keep harvesting hay without stopping to haul the bales to the barn."

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Walker wants to avoid the traditional way of identifying animals, where a producer tags a calf and writes its birthdate and mother's ID number in a notebook. This approach can lead to duplication, as each time a calf is weighed or vaccinated, the data is again entered into a notebook.

"I hate to write down the same information three times," he noted. So Walker uses a Tru-Test XRS digital Stick Reader (cost is $1,300 to $1,500). The device reads a calf's EID tag (cost is $2.25) and records its weight each time it passes through the working chute and crosses the electronic scale. This information, along with the calf's average daily gain and health history, is wirelessly stored in the Tru-Test ID5000 scale head (cost is $2,059). The information is then transferred into a CattleMax computer software program (cost is $9 per month for 100 animals). All employees at Walker Lands and Cattle LLC can view the information from their iPhones and iPads.

"We have an old saying, you can't manage what you can't measure. My son, Jason, recently graduated from college with a degree in ag economics, and we plan to use these years of stored data to help us make culling decisions on our cattle," he said.

"No cattle producer wants to be chained to a desktop computer," adds Terrell Miller, of Cattlesoft, the company that makes the CattleMax software Walker uses.

CattleMax uses cloud computing technologies that offer real-time recordkeeping to producers. Multiple people on a ranch can access and update information regardless of whether they are in a pasture, at the office or on the road.

Miller said one of the key benefits from CattleMax software comes at tax time. Instead of searching for receipts in shoeboxes and sale records in ledgers, producers can produce their annual tax information in 30 minutes.

The commercial plan is designed for ranchers who want to track production and performance information and costs.

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Dan Rohrer, of Prineville, Oregon, calls this "the best ranch hand you'll ever hire." The one-person Man Saver 98E Basic T-Post Driver runs off of a small air compressor and drives T-posts with 85 strokes per minute (cost is $450). When you're ready to pull T-posts, Rohrer Manufacturing makes a hand-operated puller to lift posts straight out of the ground without bending or twisting (cost is $45).

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