Any successful beef operation involves handling cattle at various times. Ranchers must
become adept at moving the cattle, separating cows from calves at weaning, during worming or other
treatments, branding, weighing, performance testing, pregnancy examination, not to mention loading and unloading
All this movement would be chaos if not for the corral systems
that have been developed over the years to facilitate ease of movement and management of the herd. If done
correctly, a good corral system can increase the overall efficiency of your operation, which will ultimately save
you time and money.
Good and well-managed corral systems also limit herd movement,
which decreases stress on the animals and will keep overall herd health higher.
Location, Location, Location
Ideally, the corral should be located on sandy soil in an area with some shade,
usually from nearby trees. It also is ideally located near the pasture area, so movement is limited from pasture to
corral. Electricity, water and holding pens should also be nearby,
Corrals require a working “chute” and a “squeeze.” You can build a loading chute to
accommodate the type of truck and trailer that you use most often to transfer the cattle. There are several
commercial types and plans available as well, many at affordable prices that will get your operation up and running
in a shorter time period.
You’ll need at least two holding pens: one for holding the cattle before they are
worked and the other for the cattle after. These pens need to hold all the cattle from one pasture. These pens
should be designed for ease of movement of cattle into the holding area.
A holding/crowding area should be roughly 20 feet, if possible, and a funnel shaped
chute should be used to promote somewhat orderly movement into the holding area.
Most ranchers plan their gates in the corners and configure them to close in the
direction the cattle are moving. Fences within the corral should be roughly five feet high, but outside fences and
fences where cattle will be crowded should more than six.
Make sure the chute can hold five or six cattle at a time but do not make it too wide,
as cattle will turn around and block the flow of traffic, requiring more management to get them facing the right
You can build the squeeze chute from plans or buy a commercially-built one. This all
depends on herd size, and, if you have a small number of cattle, then your corral system should be designed
accordingly. Ranchers with larger herds should consider the commercial options available. The cost of these is
relatively minimal compared to the headaches it can save and the efficiency of a properly designed corral
Your local extension agency or university can be a great source of information when
designing your corral system. Several different plans are available for different cattle and different herd sizes
and land topography.
Whatever your herd size, however, a well established and maintained corral system will
prove a wise investment when the time comes to manage the herd. Without an efficiently designed corral system in
place, getting your herd to move—and getting them to market—can be a daunting task.