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Cattleyards that work

Countryman

There are cattle yards, and then there are cattle yards. At the point of constructing your new cattle yards, you are making decisions that will impact the experience your cattle will have each time they enter this intensive work area.

Poorly designed stockyards can not only result in more handling hours but also, more importantly increase the risk of injury to both the handler and stock. Ill-functioning yards or those in bad repair can also result in bruising and hide damage, which can be costly to a producers' bottom-line.

_ It pays to care _

It is vastly understated the impact stock handling has on the eventual profitability of cattle in the market. A producer's key goal is to make a living from owning and working with stock. The calmer, more contented and healthy cattle are, the better for everyone concerned.

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Low stress livestock handling can contribute to the well-being of cattle by allowing the handler to work them in all situations in a safe, calm, efficient manner - effectively minimising the amount of stress the cattle are exposed to.

The results from using low stress stock handling include:

·Increased productivity and make more money

·Improve meat quality from your livestock

·Be more effective with your time and money

·Reduce cost of production

·Have quiet stress free stock and people

·Learn to work through all situations confidently

Meat quality can be affected by several factors, including transport and pre-slaughter bruising. This can cause meat to darken and harden at the expense of softer flesh and the carcase can be downgraded.

Dark meat is caused by high pH levels because of the failure of glycogen cells in muscle to produce enough lactic acid to decrease pH levels from about seven to less than six.

The lack of glycogen in muscle is the result of poor nutrition and stress in animals, which occurs during handling and pre-slaughter.

Effective cattle handling facilities are a key starting point for low stress stock handling.

_ Materials _

Any combination of materials can be used in the construction of cattleyards, the choice depending on local availability of materials and the amount of money you are prepared to spend.

The areas that receive a lot of pressure from stock - such as gateways, forcing yard and race - need to be sturdy and well-constructed. You can't afford to compromise on materials here. Panels should be made of sawn or bush timber, steel pipe or special cattle mesh.

Labour efficiency, operator safety, productive stock flow and low stress cattle handling are the key factors to keep in mind when investing in handling facilities. It is wise to talk to other producers in your area, industry experts and yard manufacturers to help you develop an efficient yard design.

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For more information, visit www.agric.wa.gov.au/small_landholder or phone the Small Landholder Information Service on 9733 7777

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