Yards and their design are very important. One of the most important reasons to have good facilities is SAFETY! The safety of you and anyone working with your animals such as shearers, stock agents, TB testers or vets as well as your livestock, often depends on the facilities available. To enable all owners of livestock to provide adequate care of their animals, handling facilities i.e. functioning yards, are ESSENTIAL. Animal welfare is at stake if it is not possible to easily examine animals regularly and provide necessary procedures such as worming, facial eczema prevention, foot care, fly-strike management, birthing assistance, shearing and veterinary attention. As vets we see a variety of yards, and often lack there of – which inevitably involves chasing animals around large paddocks. This results in stressed animals, sweaty vets and bigger vet bills! Having a good set of yards will make owning and looking after livestock safe and a pleasure.
Here are a FEW simple tips to consider when building new yards or improving existing facilities.
· Yards - In the corner of a paddock.
· Yard entrance – in the corner with the fence line so animals can be run down the fence line and straight into the yards.
· A ‘Shute’ or raceway to the entrance is also very useful for wily animals.
2. Yard Design
· HEIGHT – cattle yards should be at least 1600mm (sheep yards 850mm).
· SPACING – cattle yards need at least 350mm between rails especially in races/crush areas so it is possible to work safely from outside the yards when dealing with lame animals etc.
· STRENGTH – solid robust materials should be used to ensure long term use. Posts should always be on the outside of yards or else animals can easily push nailed rails off posts.
· CRUSH LENGTH-needs to be between 2 and 14 animal lengths long. (For cows animal length = 1700mm on average.) Livestock are herd animals and are easier to mange in groups.
· CRUSH WIDTH - only one animal wide e.g. 760mm for cattle and 52-64mm for sheep – any wider and they can turn around and move away or get stuck.
· CRUSH BACKING POLES ( cattle)
o Positioning - Have vertical poles at each animal length (i.e every 1700mm) with some extra slots to hold the backing pole for younger/smaller animals in the most forward position.
o Use a round backing pole rather than a flat plank- poles are much stronger and easier to slide into position.
o Ensure the backing pole has at least 30cm on either side of the post otherwise they can come out easily with fidgety animal.
· RACE/CRUSH EXIT – The loading ramp should not be the only exit – an additional side exit at the end of the race/crush makes moving animals through the yards simple.
· GATES – need to be strong and easy to close quickly and safely behind animals. Spring loaded latches are excellent especially on crush gates.
· A HOLDING PEN leading into the crush – makes getting animals into the crush easier and much safer.
· HEAD BAILS – these are extremely useful for cattle yards. Ear tagging, dehorning, mouth examinations and applying FE capsules are all very dangerous without good head restraint. There are several simple but effective designs.
· SHEEP – minimal yard requirements are a larger holding pen with a small pen/crush attached, about 1m x 2m, to be able to restrain animals without having to use the rugby tackle technique.
· PROTRUDING OBJECTS such as gudgeons, bolts and nails should be placed on the outside, flushed or covered to prevent animal and human injury.
There are several companies that build good quality and well designed yards, which can all be found on-line. Otherwise certain local builders may be willing to construct yards for you. There are free designs available on-line. We are also very happy to help with any queries you may have.