VERSATILITY AND SAFETY KEY TO PICKING A CATTLE CRUSH
Handling stock on a regular
basis requires dedicated
equipment designed for
not just one job, but
many different stock
tasks. Mervyn Bailey
asked one producer what
he looked for when
buying a new cattle crush
SAFETY for both animal and handler is the key benefit of using a modern cattle crush.
So Ian Archer welcomes the effort manufacturers have put into designing cattle crushes which give easy access to animals, while minimising the risk of handlers being kicked or having their fingers squashed.
"Like many producers, I do most work on my own so safety is an essential consideration," explains Mr Archer.
"I need equipment which will protect me and my stock from harm, while enabling me to handle stock efficiently with minimum help."
The Unistock crush at Marston Mill Farm, Wolston, Coventry, Warks, is in regular use for a number of handling duties and has become an invaluable tool for Mr Archer when preparing for shows and sales.
"When I first saw the potential for a portable cattle crush, I decided to treat myself to a good one. I wanted something with a bit of weight to withstand handling both bulls and cows and I liked Premiers Unistock design. It has a number of features which the manufacturer has put a lot of thought into."
Mr Archers plan is to place the crush at the end of a fixed race after some building development. But at present, it resides at the entrance to the collecting yard with guide gates directing animals into it.
"The sliding entrance door is useful for holding animals in place, while the U-shaped rump bar is lowered into position and held by a ratchet mechanism. It also prevents other animals seeing what job is being carried out and stops them getting scared or barging in," he explains.
Animals are securely held in the crush by an auto locking head yoke which is easily released once inspection or treatment is complete.
"Access to animals is really good. The crush has just one big rail down either side and the rest is made up of hinged and slide-up panels," says Mr Archer.
For applying pour-on treatments or clipping animals backs, full length parallel bar panels, which form the upper part of the crush, slide up and across into the top of the crush. This leaves the upper half of the animal exposed, but still held securely by the side rails.
Below them are two wide opening solid panels that permit access to the animals belly for trimming and other tasks. Anti-kick bars – one each side – are designed to prevent injury, while working on an animals lower body.
These bars are permanently attached to the crush frame and pivot through 90í to a horizontal working position where they are secured by a locking pin.
A split kick bar design is used, rather than a full width bar, so if the animal does get a leg forward, it is possible to release one side to get the leg back, while keeping the other secure.
The lower opening panels can also be used as a last resort to release an animal which goes down. "In this situation, it is important to be able to help them with the minimum amount of stress. Ive seen a bull go down in another design of crush and the owner was unable to do anything," explains Mr Archer.
Opening lower side panel doors leaves a clear means of escape, while the front gates sprung panels prevent the animal choking before it is released. Rubber pintle matting, which can be replaced when worn, lines the floor to help keep animals standing in the first place.
For added versatility, the crush can be equipped with leg pulleys and blocks for foot trimming, weigh cells and side plates which reduce the internal width for handling smaller cattle – including calves – a useful feature when it comes to dehorning.
One feature Mr Archer would like to see available on crushes is a means of moving them about on a tractor with ease. "It would be nice to have a three-point linkage mounting, so I can move the crush about. Its so heavily built that my tractor loader is not able to lift it," says Mr Archer.
"Even so, bigger animals can still shift it when they hit the self catching yoke, so its probably just as well that I fix it in position once the race is built." *
Above: Lower side panels open up to allow access to the lower half of the animal, while a kick bar prevents any harm to the handler.
Left: It would be hard to manage without a decent crush, especially when completing most tasks alone, says Ian Archer.
• Safety for handler.
• Exit for downer stock.
• Designed for many tasks.