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Double alleyway adds efficiency to local cattle feeder's operation

Staff writer

When cattlemen purchase feeder calves, the first thing they do is run them through a “squeeze” chute to undergo vaccinations, tagging, and other essentials before being turned into a feedlot.

Duane Carlson of Lincolnville buys 400-500-pound calves and raises them to 800-900 pounds before selling them. He recently used his expertise as an industrial engineer to build his own cattle-working facility.

Using steel pipe, he created a double alleyway as a transition from a crowding area to a single alleyway and the working chute.

The double alleyway incorporates a head rack of pipes, which provides a kind of ceiling over the top of the animals.

The single alleyway has steel walls and curves on its way to the chute. Calves access the single alleyway through a swinging gate.

With the use of hydraulic cylinders, pulleys, and other custom-made devices, Carlson can move the pipe or steel walls of the alleyways in or out and lower or raise the top, depending on the size of the animals.

Within each alleyway, a system of stops with rollers allows each animal to proceed in calf-length increments and prevents it from backing. Stout steel posts bolted to a concrete floor ground the entire system.

Carlson said the system allows for a much smoother transition from the tub or crowding area to the chute. Because calves can enter the alleyway side-by-side, there tends to be less balking.

The system of stops has a calming effect, Carlson said, and the head rack keeps the animal from crowding or jumping on the calf in front of it.

With the head rack, no walkway is needed on the outside to reach the calves because the walls of the single alleyway do not need to be as high as in a regular system.

Carlson said his system is not something new. Several companies build a similar system, and other cattlemen have built some from scratch.

“But none of them are like mine,” he said, noting that the single alleyway is curved on the way to the chute. “Calves still sometimes need a little prodding, but the system makes them move a lot better.”

To build the system, Carlson created a special workbench for marking and cutting pipe. He used a plasma tool to cut the pipe, creating smooth, precise edges.

He said the entire process took time because he worked on the project as he had time. He has a farming operation in addition to his cattle-feeding operation.

Kelsey Harding of Diamond Springs, who did much of the welding, assisted him.

Carlson said the system would be simpler if it was in a straight line but he had to put a curve into it, which called for some creative engineering, especially for adjusting the sides of the alleyway.

He began using the system last spring and is willing to show it to anyone who is interested. To make an appointment, call 620-924-5545.

Last modified Jan. 28, 2009

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