Sample Designs of Cattle Races and Corrals

Revised July 2014

Why does a curved chute and round crowd pen work better than a straight one?

  1. As the animals go around the curve, they think they are going back to where they came from.
  2. The animals can not see people and other moving objects at the end of the chute.
  3. It takes advantage of the natural circling behaviour of cattle and sheep.

Right and wrong layout for Cattle.

This diagram shows both the right and wrong layout for a curved race system. If the single file race is bent too sharply where it joins the crowd pen the cattle may refuse to enter because it looks like a dead end. Cattle standing in the round crowd pen must be able to see a minimum of three body lengths up the single file chute before the curve begins.

Right and wrong layout for Pigs

This diagram shows both the right and wrong layout for pigs. If the single file race is bent too sharply where it joins the crowd pen, the pigs may refuse to enter. The pigs must be able to see a minimum of three body lengths up the race before it bends.

Design Recommendations

  1. The round crowd pen will work most efficiently if it is a full half circle, 180 degrees. A full half circle takes advantage of the natural tendency of cattle to go back to where they came from. For cattle, the crowd pen should have a 12 ft (3.5 m) radius. A shorter radius can be used for pigs and sheep.

  2. A single file chute (race) will be very efficient if it has a single 180 degree or 90 degree curve. Multiple curves do not improve efficiency. The serpentine design with 2 180 degree curves should only be used in places where space is restricted. If there is sufficient space, a single 180 degree or 90 degree curve is recommended. It is a mistake to design many multiple curves into the single file race. Refer to drawings in the this website for more information.

  3. Never build a crowd pen on a ramp. If a ramp is required, it should be in the single file chute (race). Cattle and pigs will pile up if a crowd pen is built on a ramp.

  4. Install solid shields so that approaching animals do NOT see the people up ahead.

Recommended lengths of single file races for cattle

Facility Type Line Speed Minimum length Maximum length
Cattle Ranch and Properties N/A 30 ft (9 m) 75 ft (23 m)
Cattle Slaughter Plants Under 100/hour 40 ft (12.2 m) 75 ft (23 m)
Cattle Slaughter Plants 100 to 400/hour 80 ft (25 m) 200 ft (60 m)

Recommended lengths of single file races for pigs and sheep

If pigs are handled in groups in a gas stunning system, no race is needed.

Loose shackle systems where pigs can be batched on the bleed rail can operate efficiently with shorter races than systems that have to operate with a continuous flow.

Continuous flow systems with shackles attached to a chain conveyor for pigs or sheep:

0 to 100 animals per hour - 10 ft (3 m) to 25 ft (7.6 m)
100 or more animals per hour - 25 ft (7.6 m) to 50 ft (15 m)

Simple Economical Cattle Handling System Design

This compact design will fit in a small space and provide the advantages of a round crowd pen. The crowd pen is a full half circle to take advantage of the natural tendency of cattle to go back to where they came from. The outer fences are completely solid to block outside distractions. When a person with a flag stands on the small catwalk at the pivot point of the crowd gate, the cattle will circle around the person and enter the the single file chute. People who are operating the squeeze chute should work on the outer side of the squeeze chute. When the people are on the outer side, the slight bend in the single file chute will prevent incoming cattle from seeing the people who are operating the squeeze chute. To reduce costs, catwalks along the sides of the single file chute have been eliminated.

The inner fences are partially open so a person can work the flight zone while walking on the ground. The bottom portion should have a 4 ft (1.2 m ) high solid fence. This prevents the animal's feet from getting stuck in the fence. Since the cattle can see people through the partially open fence, people must stay out of this area. The handler should only enter this area when they need to move cattle into the squeeze chute. Another option with this design is to make all the fences completely solid and install catwalks. Catwalks must never be overhead. They must be located alongside the solid fence. The ideal height is to locate the catwalk so the top of the solid fence is at the waist height when a person stands on the catwalk.

More information and step by step instructions for building curved livestock handling facilities is in the book, Humane Livestock Handling, by Temple Grandin and Mark Deesing, published by Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA, USA.

Curved Design with No Catwalks

In this design, a skilled handler can work the flight zone and take advantage of the natural behavior of cattle to circle around them. The round crowd pen is worked from the ground at the pivot point of the crowd gate. The fences on the outer perimater are completely solid to block distractions. The inner fences are open on the top portion. A single handler can easily move cattle by working the point of balance. People MUST NOT constantly stand near the open side fence. This will cause the cattle to become agitated. This area is entered to move cattle and then people MUST back up and remove themselves form the animals's flight zone. If less skilled handlers will be using this design, the installation of an inner solid side and catwalk will facilitate cattle movement.

Temple Grandin yard demo at Beef Works (YouTube Video): Video showing handling in a chute with a solid outer fence and an open inner fence.


Large Plant Facility Layouts

Ranch (or Property) Designs

Link to lots of photos of cattle systems

CAD Drawings of Cattle Corral Designs

Directions for Laying out races and crowd pens


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