Ask The Vet

Working Facilities Tips

Image by Jim Patrico

Reader: 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?

Dr. McMillan: There are lots of options, and many companies even offer complete packages. The packages can be pricey, 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 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 headcatch 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 10-foot to 12-foot swing gate. This allows you to gentlypush 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.

Reader: I was doing some contract AI (artificial insemination) work for a cattle producer. He sent me all the drugs and a protocol. We were working the cattle and ran out of Lutalyse HighCon. I looked at the bottle, and the dose was 2 mL, but the protocol said to give 5 mL. The cattle seemed fine, but is this dangerous? Did I do any harm to them long-term? Will it affect our AI success?

Dr. McMillan: As soon as Lutalyse HighCon came out, I knew this was going to happen. It is a 12.5 mg/mL versus a 5 mg/mL solution, so the dose is 2 mL rather than 5 mL. Fortunately, the product is pretty safe in cattle even at 2.5 times the normal dose. It should have no effect on your AI success, just on someone’s pocketbook.

This was a unique situation in that you were doing what the protocol said, but it also points out the need to always read the label. When something does not add up, call before proceeding.

I like Lutalyse HighCon for a number of reasons. One big plus for me is this is labeled for subcutaneous (SQ) and intramuscular use. Prostaglandins can lead to inflammation of muscles and an increased risk of clostridial disease, especially when poor injection techniques are used. I have had several mature cows develop blackleg during the years after Lutalyse was injected in the hip. I am also betting dirty needles were involved.

While I have never seen a problem when a prostaglandin was given in the neck muscle with a clean needle, I like having the SQ option. It is labeled for cattle only and should not be used in other species.

Please contact your veterinarian with questions pertaining to the health of your herd. Every operation is unique, and the information in this column does not pertain to all situations. This is not intended as medical advice but is purely for informational purposes.

Write Dr. Ken McMillan at Ask The Vet, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email


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