R.L. Wilson got into the portable corral business in 1989, literally by accident.
“One of the local people here basically got squeezed between two panels,” Wilson, general manager of Burlington Welding in Cherokee, Okla, told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. “Some of the people came in and asked me about building a product, to come up with something better, and I sat down and designed the unit.”
The unit, known as the Wilson Wheeled Corral, was the beginning of Diamond W Corrals.
Wilson said he had been a custom harvester for 23 years, making the harvest rounds from Texas to Montana, and when I returned home that year they sold off the harvesting equipment and started work on the corrals. “I built the first 10 out of used pipe and sucker rod,” he said. “We made a deal with the county fair board – they needed money for the ribbons and the trophies for the county fair, and I needed a place to work. So we used the show ring at the county fairgrounds to do our work.”
In 1995, working with the city of Cherokee and with the help of a federal grant, they built and moved into a 40,000 square foot building.
In addition to the corrals, Wilson designed a portable sorting system for Burlington Welding, which is headed by his son Daniel.
“The sorting system is 48 feet long and 102 feet wide with transports,” R.L. explained. “If you set it down and start unfolding it as a gathering system, it will give you 1,850 square feet, and if you fold the panels back together to make two pens on each side of the alleyway in the center, it will be about 1,600 square feet.”
Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist for the University of Missouri Extension Center at Webster County, told OFN portable corrals have certain advantages; where cattle are scattered at multiple locations, they solve the need for permanent corrals. The system can typically be set up in a matter of 10 to 20 minutes. He recommended producers look for systems built with heavier-gauge and larger-diameter steel pipe or square tubing that will better resist the efforts of cattle to get out. Wheels with a big “footprint” will allow easier rolling and setup of panels on rough or uneven terrain. While winches and/or jacks can more easily lift heavy panels and reduce back injuries for the cattle handlers, Schultheis said the producer should make sure moving parts, pins, jacks, winches, leveling pads, etc., are kept to a minimum, but located in such a way they can serve multiple purposes.
On the negative side, he said, they present a greater security risk. “What works for the cattle producer can also work for cattle rustlers,” Schultheis said. “So plan to provide security measures at the cattle pastures to make it more difficult or time-consuming for a rustler to move in and set up a portable corral system.”
Corrals built from pipe can throw light-and-shadow patterns that cause cattle to balk, and the animals can become distracted by people or animal movement outside of the system. Also, metal panels can make clanging noises that can cause more stress to the cattle, something that can be muted with rubber bumpers.
R.L. Wilson, though, said his units are reliable. “We’ve got units that have been out there since 1989 right now, that are still being used today. I’ve had units that have been involved in different types of wrecks, and they’ve brought them back in, and we’ve reconditioned them and put them back out.” He said he thought the high prices and short cattle supplies would make it tough for them, “but we’ve been really surprised. We have been building two units a day since October. We are just now getting some inventory built up ahead. In January, we were 40-some corrals behind.”


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