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Cow-Catching Bus Makes Working Cattle Easier
The combination of an old school bus and some self-locking headgates has made summer cattle management a whole lot easier for Harrowsmith, Ontario farmer Dave Kerr.
  When cattle are being grazed on fields without adequate catch pen facilities, it can be very difficult to provide veterinary care or perform artificial insemination, but with a little imagination, Kerr has found a way around that.
  By putting in only about 18 hours of labor, Kerr found a way to easily catch cattle on pasture. Multiple headgates, which cover holes cut into the side of a bus, created a simple way to immobilize cattle.
  After driving out to the pasture, Kerr dumps a bit of grain onto the floor in front of each headgate. Within a very short time, the cows push their heads through the self-locking headgates to eat the grain, and are caught. At this point, Kerr can treat sick animals, administer vaccination booster shots, do pregnancy checking, or perform artificial insemination.
  He suggests that, for cattle that are less docile than his, it would be a good idea to first get the animals "hooked" on the occasional grain snack by offering it to them on the ground near the bus.
  "I find this system extremely handy for pasture breeding," says Kerr, who has about 40 fullblood Braunvieh cows. He sells bulls to Mexico. "I have also been in the school bus business for 30 years, and have accumulated some surplus buses that are now off the road. There's very little wrong with them, so I can't see them go to waste. The bus I used has a 32-foot long box. I removed the seats and then cut out two 30-inch deep holes along the side length of the bus one behind the back wheels and another in the middle, between the two sets of wheels. I left an upright structural brace in place every four feet, for strength."
  He says the length of the holes is dependent on the size of the bus being worked on and the number of headgates desired. Although any style of self-locking headgate could be used, Kerr used a commercially available style that comes with five inter-connected headgates per panel. He removed two from one panel and added them to another, to make a seven-headgate section that fits over the longer mid-section hole in the bus. The remaining three-headgate section fits over the smaller "back" hole.
  The headgates feature a "double-locking head hole," that Kerr says is necessary in case an animal goes down for any reason. Before a cow is captured, she puts her head in an angled, v-shaped headgate opening. As she lowers her head to eat the grain, her neck applies pressure on the bottom of the angled "swing-bar." This bar straightens into a vertical, locked position and "catches" her. If she falls down for any reason, the swing-bar can be unlocked so that it falls in the opposite direction. This leaves a wider opening at the bottom of the head hole and the cow can regain control of her head and be released.
  The headgates Kerr is using allow him to release animals either individually, or all at once, by accessing a handle on the panel's end corner, which turns the locking bar.
  He bolted the bottoms of the panels tightly onto the side of the bus with U-clamps and then bolted the top of the panels to an extension bar he had welded to the bus every two feet. The bar is located just under the windows, and it holds the top of the headgate panel out about eight inches away from the side of the bus.
  "This angle helps lock the cattle in quicker," he says. "I plan to install headgates on the other side of the bus as well, and this would give me the ability to catch 20 head at one time."
  The bus is worth $1,500 and the headgates cost him $700, Kerr says. He notes that he has extra buses for sale that are in good condition.
  For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dave Kerr, R.R 1, Harrowsmith, Ontario, Canada K0H 1V0 (ph/fax 613 372-2215).

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2000 - Volume #24, Issue #4