Friday, June 26, 2009

Building a corral part 1 of 5 - plan and layout

Having looked at the new land, I think that the best use I can put it to is as a seasonal pasture. It's got good water, lush grass and good shelter. Since it's in the floodplain it's going to be best to pull the animals off it during the flood season (November 1 to March 1), but it should work great as a rotational pasture. I don't want to put sheep on this pasture because i have no idea what the predator load is -- there's 300 acres of wildlife refuge around me -- but I think that adult cows should be ok.
So to do this right, I'll need to be able to drive a stock trailer up, and load all of the cows into it with a minimum of fuss and time. I'll only need to load and unload them once a year or so; drop them off in march, pick them up in October, so I don't need anything really elaborate, but I do need the ability to work on the animals that are there; medical care, branding, weighing, or whatever else I might need to do. Having a proper facility to do that will make it safer for both the cows and I.
So off to the Internet I go, to find the Canada Plan Service CPS 1000 series, beef cattle. after looking at various plans on the Internet, I finally settle on plan 1831, minimum working corral.

After consulting the zoning code, I find that fences can be on the property line, but that there's a requirement that any structure that might house animals must be 25 feet from the property line. So to make sure I'm in compliance I arbitrarily set the working corral 30 feet from the eastern edge. To do that I string a line on the survey points to describe the property line, and then measure off it to set two corners of the corral.

Here's the trailer with the basic supplies for starting the corral. Having looked at the drawing it calls for 33 posts, two gates and a whole bunch of planks. I'm using pressure treated posts because I don't want them to rot off in this wet environment. I'll be using galvanized fasteners for the same reason, and making sure that everything is securely anchored and fastened. This is the flood plain, after all. I expect the corral to be there after a flood event.

Baling twine is really handy when you want to make a 100' line. and its cheap. Everyone should have a roll of baling twine.
That's me in the red shirt. I'm 6'2, and this lush grass is taller than I am. So we're tromping around trying to get a square corral by doing diagonals. this takes a while.
Bryan and I decided to dig the post holes by hand -- there are only 33 of them -- and not to bring the tractor. Somewhere in the middle of this as we struggle with the long grass, we're both really regretting not bringing it to mow down this grass.
We finally get the string marking the edges of the corral up, and start digging holes and planting posts. We use a dry-set technique here.

Dry-set means that you dig the post hole, insert and level the post, and then pour in the dry concrete. Tamp it down, and walk away. You can do this where the soil is moist or damp, and it results in a very strong concrete. The moisture in the ground seeps in and causes the concrete to set. Its very strong because only the minimum amount of water actually gets in -- and the less water you use to mix concrete, the stronger it is.


Brent said...

Hi Bruce. I came across your blogs and pics of your cattle pen. I really appreciate the link to the Canada information, and the info you posted, especially the pics. I'm very curious how that sliding gate(s) worked out. R U happy with them? Do they slide into place quick enough? Any info would be appreciated. Am trying to decide between the two types of gates presented in the Canada plans.

Bruce King said...

Hi Brent. The gates do close quickly enough if the rail that they're mounted it is at the proper angle. You can play with the angle a bit before you put it up and see what the speed is.

I built a second corral at my other property, the first entry of that project is here:

part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

part 4:

In this second corral we did a long, curved loading chute, and it works well most of the time except that now and then an animal feels like it wants to back up. If I were to do it again, I'd add one of those gates for every 20' of narrow chute, so that the balky animal can be prevented from backup and compressing the animals behind it.

Brent said...

Good informaiton on the gates. Thanks. Looked at your newer corral. Glad you mentioned upgrades on post size. I was debating on post size, and this info helps. I'm getting ready to use the basic Canada plan, more or les, but I am wondering about the functionality of the holding pen. I'm familiar with what Grandin says, and the Canada plan doesn't follow her approach. Seems the Canada plan may make it difficult to get cows to head down the working chute. Do you have any input on that, based on experience with your first corral?

Bruce King said...

On the newer pen, we use the smaller pens quite a bit. Sheep and cows are herd animals, so it's a lot easier to get the whole bunch of them into the chute than just one. The newer design, with the sorting gate (the gate that exits back into the corral and diverts the animal from going into the truck end of the chute, is very useful for picking out the particular animals that you want to work with, or removing animals from the herd that you don't want to load on the truck.

The biggest problem that I have with the new design is that it's hard to clean out. it's too small to get a tractor into easily. eventually manure, bedding and chips build up in there and we've got to be able to remove them or it prevents the gates from working. So we've done that by gingerly moving through the gates, but if I were to build it again, I'd probably think seriously about a big enough setup that I could get my tractor in and out easily.

the 4x4 posts do work and hold it up, but the 6x6 are much more sturdy and Im glad we went to them for the main corral, since we use it probably weekly for something.

The basic canadian plan does work - that's what we built first. the second corral was built after we used the first one for a while.

The differences between the two was we did a sharp narrowing of the mouth of the chute to prevent pigs from cramming themselves in shoulder-to-shoulder and getting wedged, and the crowding gate closes off the crowding area much more tightly. When the crowding gate is completely closed there's room for one animal at the mouth of the chute.

So we run the herd into the crowding gate area, and then use the gate to sweep them into the chute. The gate can latch at any of the posts on the edge, so you kind of ratchet in the gate as animals go into the chute. Pretty soon there's just one left.

I'd love to see what you come up with.

Brent said...

I hadn't even considered cleaning out the pen. Good point on leaving room for a tractor. I'm only going to be working a few head of cattle, no pigs. I do, however, have a number of wild pigs visiting. Wished I could send them to you. Lot's of damage from rooting. I'll post pics of my project as it progresses. I do, however, have one last question. Where'd you find the sliding track for the gate? Is it galvanized? Stainless?

Bruce King said...

The building of material inside the corral is because it's been very handy to have a hard-walled enclosure for those days when the fence gets knocked down, or you get a breachy animal from the auction, or you want to be able to isolate a particular animal, and keep them in there for a while -- like for medical treatment, or if a bull turns out to be mean, or whatever.

I like having a very sturdy pen where I can put an animal and not have to worry about it; makes my day much simpler.

No wild pigs up here. I wonder why, sometimes. Our climate suits our pigs just fine; I'm sure that they could manage themselves if they got turned out.