Summer is just around the corner and cattle producers will be managing flies, deworming and may even be considering other vaccinations as part of their herd management program. These things got me thinking about cattle handling facilities.

With good management practices comes a requirement to work cattle several times throughout the year, and I can’t tell you how many times I have heard producers say the reason they don’t implement these best management practices is because they don’t have an adequate handling facility. I can’t say whether this is because the thought of choosing a design that best fits their operation or if it’s the cost associated with building a facility that is overwhelming. However, I can say that this is where Cooperative Extension can help.

First off, we have an impressive amount of equipment available to producers to rent for various lengths of time which include a squeeze chute, corral system, artificial insemination cage attachment and portable scales. We have several producers who have utilized this equipment and have had great things to say about it.

This allows the producers to basically skip the process of planning a working facility design and footing the bill to build it. This also allows producers to be able to see and use these pieces of equipment to see what they do and do not like about them before purchasing one of their own. Cooperative Extension is also available to help walk producers through the steps of planning and designing a handling facility to best meet their needs.

One thing we must not skip is reminding producers who already have a handling facility to walk through that facility at least a couple times a year to make sure that it is safe to work cattle through. This means making sure the footing is adequate so that animals are not slipping and/or falling while being handled.

Also, check for loose boards, screws or nails which could result in injury to the animals or operators. As producers these best management practices that we can implement with the help of a handling facility can go a long way with the peace of mind of consumers knowing that their beef is being raised in a healthy manner.

For more information about cattle handling facilities, design, or renting equipment, producers can contact me at the Jackson County Cooperative Extension Office at 586-4009 or the Swain County Cooperative Extension Office at 488-3848 or by email at

Kendra Fortner is the N.C. Cooperative Extension Agent, Livestock, for Jackson and Swain counties.