Ask the Vet

Working Facilities Tips

A new corral is something you'll live with for years, so don't be afraid to ask for advice from Extension, veterinarians and other producers. (Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)


Our corral is past due for replacing, and I want to do it right. We have a small herd and can't spend a fortune. Do you have any plans or tips that might help me?


There are lots of options, and many companies even offer complete packages. The packages can be pricy, and there are often less-expensive ways to build a working facility for a small operation.

Start with a blank sheet of paper and an open mind. Look for plans on the internet and through your Extension service. Consider your Extension agent and other producers as valuable resources as you progress through this project. Remember, the goal of any facility is to make cattle want to go where you want them to go with as little stress on bovine and human as possible.

Location should be your first decision. The area needs to be well-drained and easily accessible to all your pastures. Electricity and water are nice to have, if possible.

You need a holding area to gather cattle before moving them into crowding pens leading to the alley. If this is an area where cattle normally come for water, feed or mineral, this makes gathering easier. Lanes leading from pastures to this gathering area can also be helpful.

The single biggest mistake I have seen during the years is making the alley leading up to the chute or head-catch too wide. Many years ago, we had a producer spend thousands of dollars building a new facility. When we arrived, he proudly drove his four-wheeler down the alley to the chute to greet me. We did not get his cattle worked until he reworked everything.

For most producers in our area, we recommend the alley be 26 to 28 inches wide. That looks narrow, but it is a good rule of thumb. If you have very large cattle, you may need to adapt a bit. It's best if the alley is adjustable, allowing you to work calves or cows at the optimum width.

Another design tip I think is almost essential is a circular tub with a heavy-duty swing gate from 10 feet to 12 feet. This allows you to gently push cattle into the chute. You want curved alleys with solid surfaces where cattle cannot see what is going on in front, or to the side, of them. This reduces stress and encourages forward movement. A covering over at least part of the working area provides much-appreciated protection from the elements.

These are just a few tips. I invite our readers to write or email us what they have learned (good and bad) during the years. It's always great to get new ideas.