Cattle Kraal / Pen Contruction

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Cattle Kraal and Pen

While cattle farming is a popular way to make a living in South Africa. Whether you are starting out small, or if you have a big section of land at your disposal. There is one thing both of these farmers have in common: building a cattle kraal that will last and keep your livestock from wandering off.

In this post, we will give you all the information you need regarding the wood you will need, the design and construction of your cattle kraal.

Difference between Cattle Holding Pens and Sorting Pens

Firstly, when talking about cattle pens (kraal) it is important to note that there are two different designs to keep in mind. Namely Holding pens and sorting pens.

As derived from the names, the design is to demarcate a certain area for the cattle to be held in during night times when they are not grazing. Additionally, there can be smaller areas demarcated within this holding pen for the pregnant or sick cattle. The sorting pens are more complex because they are designed to assist the farmer in sorting the herd into selected categories.

Having a properly designed cattle holding kraal and sorting section will make handling of cattle much more efficient and result in fewer workers being injured by the herd.

Explanations for both these designs are provided below:

Cattle Kraal Designs:

Cattle Kraal Design

Considerations in the design process include the following:

Location of the cattle Kraal/Pen:

Although the inclination is to build on a level slope, a slight upwards slope is not bad in the case of a kraal. Why? The upward slope provides a natural form of drainage. Therefore if the slope is at the right angle you will not need any other construction for drainage. In addition to this, it is good to not have places where water dams up as cattle do not like it.

The Foundation:

Leaving the soil as is might not be your best idea in this case. Unless it is a stone surface. Otherwise, adding gravel to the ground is a good idea as it also prevents water from damming up in various parts of the kraal. Shadows and difference in colour of the ground will also restrict movement. This is why putting down gravel will help you in the movement of the herd. It will create a uniform surface, therefore the cattle won’t get confused and stop moving.

Yet another perk of using gravel is that it will provide a surface that is not slippery, which is in favor of both the herd’s and the farmer and worker’s as they will not get injured by slipping and falling due to poor service areas.

The overall shape:

It is important to note that cattle perceive 90-degree corners as dead-ends. Therefore, then they see a corner, they will stop moving. This could be problematic when you are trying to move the herd into a certain area of the pen. For this reason, the recommendation is to avoid sharp corners and go for a more rounded effect. This will ease the flow of the herd moving.

Placement of gates, collecting, and dispersal pens:

“Poor placement of gates will create difficulties when moving cattle and restrict cattle flow, place gates to avoid looking like dead ends, perhaps at an angle. Cattle may also close gates as they are moving through. Giving gates the ability to tie back to a full 180°, prevents cattle from closing the gate or injuring themselves on it. Also ensure that there are no sharp protruding parts of gates that may injure the cattle or handler.

Narrower pens will allow easier movement of cattle and can often be managed by one handler, as there is less chance of cattle escaping past. Setting the collecting pen at a gentle angle to the exit lane will allow easier movement of cattle, eliminating corners. Putting 0.36m wide gaps into the wall will provide escape passages to protect the handler from crushing. It may also be worth considering safety posts or foot steps at the base of walls to facilitate the escape of the handler. Figure 1 is a design by the SAC, Dr Turner and suggests using two narrow collecting pens. “

The Cattle Site 

The Crush / Squeeze Chute / Drukgang

Ideally, it needs to be built on an uphill slope as cattle are more comfortable walking uphill. The breed of cattle will determine your crush. It ranges from  68cm for smaller animals up to 75cm for very large cattle. A hight of 1,5m will usually be sufficient, although, for wilder cows and bulls a height of 1,9m is the recommendation.

The length of the crush should not be shorter than two cows (whatever the size of your breed is). This is due to the fact that cattle have herding instincts. Therefore they need to be “grouped” together while moving. And the crush should not exceed the la=ength of 14 cows, as the workers will easily get worn out from walking back and forth to check the cattle.

“A crush length of 1700 mm per medium sized cow is usually satisfactory. Vertical posts should be placed atone animal intervals.” – Cattle Handling Facilities 

The following sketch is cout=rtesy of Cattle Handing Facilities Resource Document, it illustrates a basic cattle kraal and squeeze chute for a small farmer with only 5-10 cattle:

Cattle Kraal Design.

The Materials:

Noises, shapes and sudden colour changes around them frightens cows. That is why we recommend using wood. It does not make a clinging sound when bumped and additionally, it blends into the natural surroundings.

Using treated timber will protect your Kraal from the elements.

Treated Timber for Cattle Kraal:

CCA Treated Timber has different classes of treatment.
We preserve wood through pressure treatment, this is often referred to as the CCA treatment class where each class has a specific application. The purpose for which the timber is being bought will determine the treatment required to ensure maximum performance. The South African Wood Preservation Association (SAWPA), together with the SABS established hazard classification for the treatment of wood. These hazard classification treatments change according to the application of the wood.  Therefore the chemicals need not penetrate to the same depth, nor are the solutions the same. With this in mind, these two factors are called penetration and retention levels respectively.
You can read more regarding the different classes of CCA Treated Timber on this blog post.

What you need to know about a cattle Kraal.

H5 CCA Treated Timber for Cattle Kraal:

The H5 Treatment class is specially treated for use in application where there will be in-ground contact and there is constantly or periodically moisture in the ground. Therefore this is the class that you will need when building a cattle kraal.

Other uses for H5 Treatment Class:

  • Dams
  • Orchards
  • Vineyards
  • Agricultural Poles
  • Slipways
  • Bridges

Class H5 treatment poles are available in a wide variety of sizes at Sabie Poles:

Thickness: 50mm/75mm, the maximum length of 6.6m

The Thickness: 75mm/100mm, the maximum length of 7.2m

Thickness: 100mm/125mm, the maximum length of 15m

The Thickness: 125mm/150mm, the maximum length of 15m

Construction of a Kraal will be simplified by using these sizes, it means you can create big, open holding pens for your cattle, while still keeping the sorting pens as narrow as possible.

We suggest the following sizes for application in building a cattle kraal:

In order to build a cattle kraal that will last, it is important that you use the correct sizes (especially thickness) poles to construct your kraal. Because cows and bulls tend to push and lean against fences, you need your kraal withstand all of the pressure from the animals on a daily basis.

Corner Post

150mm – 200mm thick. The reason we suggest using this thickness is because the cattle can lean against it, but not push it over. Therefore, the farmer need not worry about the strength and durability of the structure.

Uprights spaced between corner posts

Should not be more than 1,8m apart if you are making use of wire between poles as fencing. These uprights should always be a thickness of 100mm – 150mm.

Any other poles (Such as crossbeams)

Crossbeams can range from 76mm – 90mm thick. This will be adequate for keeping cattle kraal intact.

Where can I buy Treated Timber for my Kraal?

At Sabie Poles we sell construction grade quality, SABS, SAWPA and NRCS approved Treated Timber. We transport our products all over South Africa.

You can view our other products on our website. 

Our price list can be downloaded from our homepage, it includes all the pricing and detailed sizes of all our treated timber products.

Contacting us means you will get the best advice, service, and products in the industry. We pride ourselves on the fact that we have years of experience in the industry. We service clients all over South Africa with pressure treated wood. Therefore, if you require any help, whether it is with building plans, knowing which class of timber to use or simply to ask more regarding the treatment process, we encourage you to contact us!

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