Fall is upon us, so it’s a good idea to look at your cattle working facilities to make sure they’re in good shape.
“It’s always pretty tough when you get your cows and calves into your working facility and find out that something’s broken, a pipe’s broken or the footing’s not right,” Dr. Tom Troxel, associate head of animal science for the University of Arkansas Extension Service, told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. “You’ve got cattle already in the pen, and you don’t know what to do; it takes you longer to work cattle than what you want to.”
He said each of the gates should be checked to see if they need oil, and to make sure the latches work properly. Walk through your facilities just as the cattle would; look at both sides of the alley and make sure the boards or the metal are not loose. If nails or bolts are sticking out that could accidentally cut the cattle, smooth them down. Make sure that your palpation gate swings across the side and latches properly, and that your head gate works properly as well.
Also, make sure that the footing is secure. “We had a lot of rain last spring that could have washed out some of the footing through the alley. Maybe it would take some extra gravel to be put into the alley area or the pen or crowding alley, so that there’s not a low spot where calves could sneak underneath the lower railing,” Troxel said.
Where there are handles that come together, make sure that the space between them hasn’t widened over time.
“If there’s a little hole where calves can get their head in, you know they will find it,” he said.
The harsh weather earlier this year may also have loosened the roofing on the barn. If sheets of metal are flapping and making noise, that could make the cattle nervous.
“We’ve also had a lot of floods in that may have flooded through bars and working facilities, so you should certainly walk through those facilities,” Troxel said. “There may be extra debris that may have washed through those facilities that you may want to pick up.”
Producers with calving barns should also make sure they’re well cleaned and aired out before the calving season.
“Bacteria don’t like dry, sunny conditions, so make sure that the old bedding is cleaned out, and you’ve had a good chance for some air drying and warm temperatures to occur to try to clean up that area before you put down any fresh bedding,” Troxel said.
Winter weather could also bring emergency conditions.
Bob Schultheis, University of Missouri Extension natural resource engineering specialist, told OFN rural landowners should assemble a disaster preparedness kit that will last at least two weeks. This should include a weather radio and flashlights, with plenty of replacement batteries.
“Dress for the weather, wearing several layers of clothing,” Schultheis said. “Be sure fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are installed and in working order. Prepare vehicles and tractors for winter weather, by checking batteries, proper grade of engine oil, lights, heater, tires, brakes, antifreeze, and windshield wipers.”
Farm equipment should be winterized as well. Schultheis suggested reviewing the maintenance recommendations in operator’s manuals, so nothing is overlooked. Change the oil in vehicles, tractors and small engines, clean or replace air filters, replace fuel filters, and lubricate bearings and joints. Check antifreeze for the correct freezing temperature; remember that antifreeze has a limited lifespan, and merely adding more may not be enough to fully protect your investment. Also, add fuel stabilizer to any gas tanks that will not be emptied within 30 days; otherwise, ethanol-based fuels will take on moisture and go through phase separation, making the engine hard to start.
Other vehicle tips include checking batteries for proper electrolyte levels, and cleaning and coating terminals with a thin layer of grease to prevent corrosion; inflating tires to the recommended pressure, removing soil from and applying rust protectant to tillage implements prior to storage, clearing plant debris from balers, planters, drills and combines. Reduce tension on baler belts, and contract hydraulic cylinders. “If temperatures increase, hydraulic oil will be confined and high pressure may cause damage to the hydraulic system,” said Schultheis.


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