menu

Safe and efficient livestock sorting requires, good sorting facility design, quality livestock equipment and calm handlers with an excellent knowledge of livestock behavior.

Sorting Cattle in an Alley

This article will review six sample methods used to sort cattle in an alley. Each method includes an example GIF and comments on the safety and efficiency of the method. If you want to skip to the recommended methods see methods five and six.


Method One

In this system the livestock need to pass the pen that they are to be sorted into. Once the animals see the sorting alley is blocked ahead they will turn and try and get back to where they came from. In anticipation of the animals coming back up the alley the handler has opened the gate to the pen they wish to sort the animals into. In this particular example the gate does not close off the alley.

Sorting cattle in a sorting alley - Method 01

This is an inefficient process as it requires:

  • the sorting alley to be closed off in order to get the animals to turn
  • the animals to travel past their destination, before returning to the pen
  • the desire of the livestock to get past the sorting gate to where they came from is high. This can result in additional time wasted trying to collect and re-sort these cattle

This is a dangerous process as:

  • The handler may be in the path of the livestock
  • The gate in this design will swing and lay flat in the sorting alley so it can spring back if it is hit.

Method Two

In this system the pen gate is opened before the animals are brought up the alley. The handler will then attempt to work the cattle down the sorting alley and hope they find their way into the pen.

Livestock Sorting - Another bad set up

This is a poor sorting alley as:

  • The gate is hinged on the outside pen post. This location provides the poorest animal sight lines into the pen
  • The gate does not reach across the alley so animals may choose to continue down the sorting alley rather than move into the pen
  • The gate is unsecured so it can be pushed open by livestock or blown open/closed by winds
  • If the gate is set straight across the sorting alley (as shown) some livestock may not see the opening into the pen, or past the gate, and decide that the alley is a dead-end. If the animals assume the alley is closed off they will attempt to return to where they had come from

Method Three

This is similar to Method Two except that the gate swings across and latches against the opposite side of the alley. One should be cautious with these types of gates as the gates do not always get latched properly. This can result in the gate opening when you don’t expect it. 

Sorting Method Three

This is a poor sorting alley as:

  • The gate is hinged on the outside pen post. This location provides the poorest animal sight lines into the pen
  • The gate may not be latched securely. This can place handlers in a vulnerable position
  • With the gate set straight across the sorting alley, some livestock may not see the opening into the pen and decide that the alley is a dead-end. If the animals assume the alley is closed off they will attempt to return to where they had come from

Method Four

In this sample the gate is longer than the sorting alley is wide. The result is that the gate will swing across the alley and rest against the other side of the alley at an angle. The gate should come with a chain latch (or similar) to allow the gate to be secured across the alley. 

Sorting cattle in a sorting alley - Method 04

Benefits:

  • Livestock cannot drive through the gate, even if it is unsecured
  • The angled gate is more likely to be seen as a turn in the alley rather than a dead end alley

Negatives:

  • The gate location provides minimal sight lines into the pen so it takes more work to help the livestock find the pen
  • The location of the gate requires livestock to make a sharp turn to enter the pen. This can result in livestock on the inside of the corner being injured as they enter the pen

Method Five

Like method Four, the gate is longer than the width of the sorting alley. In this sample the gate is shifted over to the closest side of the pen. 

Superior cattle sorting set up

Benefits:

  • Livestock cannot drive through the gate, even if it is unsecured
  • The angled gate is more likely to be seen as a turn in the alley rather than a dead-end alley
  • The position of the gate at the beginning of the pen offers the best sight lines for your livestock to see into the pen
  • The gentle turn into the pen with lots of room to move into the pen means less opportunity for livestock to be ‘pinched’ when entering the pen.

Negatives

  • Difficult to bring animals in from the other direction

Method Six

This is the optimum set-up for a sorting alley. Each pen would include two gates to provide safe and efficient sorting and movement in both directions. In this example the handler is using their understanding of livestock behavior to empty the pen. The handler is working the pen with the same technique used to move cattle through a Bud Box.

Optimum Corral Plan for sorting cattle

Benefits

  • Livestock cannot drive through the gates, even if they are unsecured
  • The angled gate is more likely to be seen as a turn in the alley rather than a dead-end alley
  • The position of the gate at the beginning of the pen offers the best sight lines for your livestock to see into, and out of, the pen
  • The gentle turn into the pen with lots of room to move into the pen means less opportunity for livestock to be ‘pinched’ when entering the pen
  • With two mirrored gates it is easy to sort cattle into and out of the pen from either direction

 


 

Additional Notes

  • The width of the alley can vary. If you are handling livestock on foot the sorting alley should be 8' to 10' wide. If you are working livestock on horseback your sorting alley can be wider 10' to 12'.
  • The recommended sorting gate width is longer than the alleys width. The wider your alley, the longer your sorting gate needs to be. 
  • Large sorting gates can be heavy and require secure hinge posts
  • Large sorting gates take more effort and more time for the handler to operate.

Corral Design

If you would like help designing your cattle corrals or cattle handling system, why not contact Hi-Hog? Hi-Hog offers a FREE design service

More cattle handling resources:


Questions? Contact Hi-Hog