Cattle, Cattle Handling

Improving livestock handling in England

By Mary Perry

Improving livestock handling in England

The Dale family have been farming in Shropshire for over 20 years and dairy farming goes back over 100 years in the family history. Their 300 cows graze outdoors, as nature intended, for over nine months of the year. Tristan and Jaci Dale are passionate about making positive changes to help drive their business forward and a big part of that is improving the livestock handling process.

In 2018, with the opportunity of being awarded a farming grant, the Dale family decided to look into purchasing a new Cattle yard system and cattle crush to improve upon their current set-up. “We were managing with a simple yard at the bottom of the farm with a gate and a crush within. We were going to lose the yard and knew we had to do something, so we started our research into solutions.”

The Dale family did plenty of research into what was readily available to them in the UK market and the different options that each would offer. With any grant application, it was necessary to provide a minimum of three options for the funding so this process ensured they had a comprehensive look into what was available.

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“Even with the grant funding it was going to be a big investment and change for our business, so we wanted to make sure we were making the right decision. We had a discussion group meeting here at the farm where we talked to AHDB about the location of the yard and where it would work to ensure the best handling environment for us and the animals. For us, nothing really came close to what Te Pari had to offer. There simply was no comparison at all when it came to the design and usability so it was a no brainer for us”

In 2018 Te Pari was dealing with UK customers directly from the head office in New Zealand and so the family contacted Jeremy from Te Pari and discussed their options for a Cattle yard system and cattle crush. After talking with the Te Pari team, the family settled on the Cattle yard from Te Pari as well as the Classic JR Crush.

“Jeremy was extremely helpful! Everything we needed to know or questions we had were answered by the Te Pari team and once we had made up our minds on what we wanted we were confident that it was the right decision. After getting everything that we needed for the grant funding, we placed our order. It was made at their New Zealand headquarters and put in a shipping container, we tracked it the whole way across the world just with pure excitement for its arrival.”

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Once the equipment arrived, the Dale family installed the cattle yard at the farm located 25 miles from the family farm. Te Pari Cattle yards can be installed by bolting the components to the ground which gives the customer the ultimate flexibility if they ever needed to make any changes in the future. 

“We really liked that the yard system is bolted to the ground, all the competitive machines we concreted in place. So, if we ever did decide we wanted to move It, the process wouldn’t require cutting it out of the concrete. We could simply make another pad elsewhere and move the system, it’s flexible and that is important to us with having two separate sites.”

The Classic JR Cattle crush that the Dale family purchased included the vet cage that is located behind the animal. This gives the operator approximately 900mm of space and is great for AI work as well as pregnancy testing, which is something that Tristan and Jaci have now implemented. Before having the Te Pari system, they would have only used Angus bulls to breed with the heifers because they didn’t have the capability to AI with their old system.

“Going from what we had before to this has enabled us to weigh and monitor weight as well as AI, we didn’t have the facility to do this before so that’s a huge benefit! This means we get more heifer replacements and heifer calves are smaller so an easier birthing process too. We also use the system for TB testing and pregnancy diagnosis. What is also really helpful is that we can TB test them in the race as the vet can walk around the outside. Sometimes with younger stock, they can be too small for the crush, so it works just as well to test them in the yard system. The vet seems happier as it is much improved from what we used to have and makes their job easier as well as safer.”

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Te Pari design all its equipment to the best criteria for cattle flow, operator safety, functionality and economical construction, and the Cattle Yards are certainly no different. Designed to harness natural cattle behaviour and ensure operator safety as well as encourage good cattle flow. Cattle have a natural tendency to circle their handler, so cattle yard designs with circular pens will allow cattle to flow better. Research shows circular yards can be up to 30% more efficient than square or rectangular yards thus allowing a much higher throughput of cattle.

“When looking into the Cattle Yard, we found that everyone else wanted to give us square pens, but we find the animals just bury their heads in a square pen so it made a lot more sense when seeing the Te Pari system, you could see the shape would enable animals to flow much better. The whole system has improved our processes, the animals are fairly relaxed and we haven’t noticed any bruising at all, generally, I would say the easier process and flow makes them happier. We have had people comment on the yard saying it is probably one of the best systems they have come across in terms of flow for the animals.”

The Dale family have now had their Te Pari products for over 3 years and in this time, they have been able to recognise some of the features that they didn’t think about before purchasing, such as the quiet and compact slam latch design. This allows the gate to latch automatically from either side but quietly and safely with the addition of the nylon sleeved slam latch.

“As well as the build it has also been about the little things for us! For example, the gates are well thought out, you slam them, and they shut. You don’t have to pull the bolt out and shut it. It sounds simple and something obvious, but it just works so well. It makes me wonder and wish why can’t other things we use work like that! It would make things so much easier!”

As well as handy features, the family have also started to see the benefits to on-farm profits from investing in these products. The Classic JR Cattle crush also features the Te Pari weighing system which has allowed them to monitor cattle weight data.

“We have always been very conscious of the data. So, we have been weighing them regularly, but it has taken us until now to really get a grip on where they have needed to be. Despite this, it has had a positive impact so far, these cattle are better grown because we are able to manage the weights better and be more aware.”

The Te Pari design features a curved and narrow race that encourages the animals to move through the circular yard and reduces the need to get into the pens, which is a huge safety benefit, especially if you are working alone.

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“Having this new system has meant we don’t need as many staff to work the cattle. Now, one person can get the cattle in on their own, weigh them and send them back out with ease. With AI-ing, the AI tech comes and serves them and away they go, after 5 weeks of AI-ing the cattle tend to know the process, so they flow well through the yard and the crush. It is great to not have to worry about having to have lots of staff on hand.”

To ensure that you can get straight back to the real work and minimise worry about maintenance costs and downtime, part of the manufacturing process of the Te Pari yards is that all steel is hot-dip galvanised to eliminate corrosion.

“Both the yard system and the crush are so substantial in terms of their build quality, they are solid and so well-made, you only have to look at them to see that! The maintenance of the whole system has been super easy and as far as I am aware we haven’t had to do anything since we had it. We may have had to tighten or replace the odd bolt on the gate but only very minor things.”

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Te Pari prides itself on offering solutions for farmers across the world, the reputation for always delivering an unrivalled experience is something they are extremely proud of, they stand by their product and services! With so much research into the marketplace, it was positive to hear that the Dale family felt that they were really looked after by the team at Te Pari and they have found the investment worthwhile!

“Talking to the team in Te Pari has been an easy experience. In the decision-making stage, they answered all our queries and gave us advice on what would be right for us. Even with the funding they did work out slightly more and we contributed but, in my opinion, it was 100% worth it. Once we purchased, they kept us updated the whole way through and answered any questions that we had. We really have felt looked after from beginning to end.”

The overall experience has also confidently allowed the family to increase the young stock numbers at the farm, purely because of the increased efficiency and ease of the systems.

“Purchasing this equipment from Te Pari has made cattle handling on what felt like a quite difficult block of land to manage into a pleasure to do. It has revolutionised how we manage the young stock here. In fact, we have decided to keep more young stock here this summer because we are confident, we will be able to weigh them, draft them, and EID tag them much easier than before. Prior to purchasing the systems, we would have been hesitant to make this decision.”

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