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Beef Cattle Handling Facility Design and Construction Considerations 

Location, materials and construction of each handling operation deserves some thoughtful planning.
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When evaluating or building infrastructure, ranchers have a lot of considerations, including site drainage, proximity to neighbors (for courtesy and privacy reasons), proximity to utilities, ease of access by vehicles and from pastures, and amount of acreage and cattle capacity they serve. In some situations, ranchers may need multiple cattle handling sites on one operation to accommodate cattle volume and pasture layout efficiently and effectively. Select a site that will accommodate possible future expansion needs.  

You can add many amenities to a handling facility to improve flow and increase efficiency. First, assess the intended uses of the facility. Consider factors such as the need to have cattle near handling facilities during calving seasons and the need to have tractor-trailer access to facilities for loading and unloading. Also, determine how the location and design of facilities will fit with biosecurity plans.  

Locating handling facilities inside a permanent barn or portable structure allows producers to work cattle during inclement weather and ensures that management practices are performed in a timely and low-stress manner. When using a permanent barn structure, incorporate skylights to improve visibility and safety while decreasing lighting requirements during daylight hours.  

Use a single color in handling facilities to minimize cattle balking at color contrasts. Do not paint facilities black or another very dark color because these will absorb too much heat. Also, avoid using white or very light colors that will reflect too much light. Manage lighting to avoid stark contrasts, shadows and glares.  

Safety of the animals and handlers is the primary consideration in developing handling facilities. No matter how efficiently a facility functions, it is unacceptable if design flaws lead to injuries in handlers or animals. Design facilities to avoid protrusions or sharp edges that might cause abrasions or lacerations. Make sure gaps and openings in facility features do not lend themselves to body parts becoming trapped, which could lead to broken bones or choking. Also ensure that safety escapes for handlers are strategically located throughout the facilities.  

Download Design Considerations For Beef Handling Facilities below, and watch this video from the University of Kentucky where Livestock Extension Specialists Joshua Jackson and Morgan Hayes point out considerations to keep in mind before building a working facility.


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Design Considerations For Beef Handling Facilities
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Additional Resources

Watch NCBA Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) winner profiles. See how the beef industry showcases its stewardship, conservation and business practices that work together on farms and ranches.

Blair Brothers Angus Ranch – South Dakota

Gracie Creek – Nebraska

Beatty Canyon Ranch – Colorado

JY Ferry & Son, Inc. – Utah

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