Corral Panels: How to make working with them less challenging

Getting cattle to go where you want and keeping them secured can be tricky at times, but shouldn’t feel like an impossible task. No matter how many head you have, good corral panels can make working cattle much easier and help keep them safely contained and out of trouble. This means fewer challenges from cattle, fewer potential injuries, more efficient processing and less stress. When you only have so many hours of sunlight or limited help, the last thing you want is to see a handler get injured or a cow getting injured or escaping.

As a rancher, you want to protect your investments. Before investing in any cattle handling system changes such as new corral panels, we challenge you to ask yourself these eight questions so you can get the most out of your system:

What material are your panels made of?

  • Panels made from wood are more likely to break down over time, especially in humid areas. They can also break if cattle charge them. Steel won’t break down as quickly from weather conditions and is less likely to bend or break when challenged. Getting panels that are heavy-duty and made of steel can keep your cattle secure today and for generations to come.

Are you and your family safe around your cattle handling system?

  • Safety matters when you’re providing for your family and building a legacy. Whether they are helping you or not, your family depends on you making it home safely at the end of the day. When you can fully trust the components of your system, including your corral panels, your family can safely get involved and help you get what’s needed done. Cattle handling can be a dangerous job. You deserve equipment that will keep you safe.

How thick are the rails?

  • Thicker rails can reduce the chances of warping. Many low-quality panels have vertical stays fitted between their rails. Though stays increase the durability of the panel, these sections can get weakened by continued pressure from cattle, which ends up warping the rails over time. While those panels may seem like a money saver at first, warping means you’ll have to replace them quicker before they stop working. Heavy-duty cattle panels with thick rails don’t need stays to stay strong.
  • In high-pressure areas, where you do most of your moving and sorting, rails that are 2” or thicker are ideal. Thicker rails keep the cows safely contained as they are a large visual barrier that makes cattle think twice before challenging them.
  • Panels with thinner rails are only recommended for use in low-pressure areas of your system, like in holding pens.

What shape are the rails?

  • Round rails can bruise cattle because they have more pressure points. Bruising can be bad for both the injured animal and for your profits when it comes to sale time and your cattle have multiple bruises or dark cutters. Rectangular rails can be safer for cattle and cause less bruising because there is more surface for cattle to brush up against.

Can your panels survive your most temperamental cattle?

  • There is an escape artist in every group: that one animal who pushes boundaries to see what they can get away with. You know those are the cattle that will try jumping out of your corral. Panels that will stand up to these cattle should be tall – at least 6’ – and durable enough to withstand being run into without snapping or cattle jumping over the top.
  • Some panels even come with the option of stabilizers or anchors so you can ensure they’ll stay in place when cattle come into contact with them whether your cattle handling system is on concrete or dirt.

Can you easily rearrange your panels to change your cattle handling system layout?

  • Look for features that allow you the freedom to change up your cattle handling system design such as panels that have 4-way connectors and pins.

How are the rails positioned?

  • We’ve all seen the kid that gets their heads stuck in the stairway railing. It takes such a hassle to get them out and causes them to panic. The same is true for cattle getting their head stuck between the rails of corral panels. Make sure the space between your panel rails is small enough they can’t get their head in, yet big enough that they won’t get their head stuck. Progressively spaced rails are often ideal.

Are you practicing low-stress cattle handling?

  • Proper cattle handling system designs should be made to work with cattle behavior and allow you to practice low-stress handling techniques. A stressed animal is more likely to challenge your corral panels. Scared, angry or confused cattle can be more desperate to get out of a stressful situation and can go to extremes to escape it. Low-stress cattle handling practices work with cattle’s natural behavior. The more you use these techniques, the better. When cattle know what to expect from you, it makes processing them easier, faster and safer.

How much time, money and energy are you putting into maintaining the panels in your cattle handling system?

  • Heavy-duty corral panels may cost more upfront, but they should last longer compared to cheap panels that need to be replaced every year or so. Don’t keep wasting time and money that could go into getting cattle processed more efficiently. When upgrading your panels, make sure to buy from a company that designs equipment to work with cattle’s instincts and offers a warranty to show they believe in their product.
  • Make sure you have the right equipment to work your cattle efficiently. Poor cattle handling system design and handling techniques cause unnecessary stress in cattle and also for you. Having and investing in good panels are vital to keeping your cattle contained, improving cattle flow and keeping you safe.