While the entire sorting process is often done in the alley, sometimes, if help is available, the sorting task can be shared between a sorting hub and sorting alley. This works well in commmunity pastures
The process of sorting cattle is shared between livestock handlers sorting in the hub and sorting alley. The handler in the tub sorts individual cattle into the sorting alley. The alley handler then cuts the individual animal out of the sorting alley and into the appropriate pen. This works well in situations like community pastures where you have sufficient knowledgeable handlers on hand to move and sort the cattle safely and efficiently.
A small group of mixed cattle are brought into the hub from a larger collection pen
In this example the hub is only connected to one collection pen. The hub could however include multiple gates connecting it to additional collection pens. Once the mixed group is secured in the hub, a gate connecting it to the sorting alley is opened
The hub handler sorts animals out of the mixed group while an alley handler controls the gates in the sorting alley
An efficient hub handler will typically attempt to sort similar animals out of the mixed group. This will make the job of the alley handler both easier and safer. In this example however, to demonstrate how a sorting hub works, the hub handler will cut three different sized animals out of the mixed group. The hub handler should communicate to the alley handler what pen the next animal should go in. In this example the first animal is small and is allowed to pass the alley handler and continue to the end pen
After the small animal passes by, the alley handler begins to open the gate to sort the next animal into the large animal pen
For a safer sorting alley the sorting gates in this sample are longer than the sorting alley is wide. This ensures that an animal can’t run around the gate or drive the gate over the handler
For improved flow the pen gate is positioned so that the animal can see well into the pen they are being directed into. The hub handler has indicated that the next animal is a middle sized animal that needs to go into pen (3). The alley handler closes the gate to pen 2 and begins to open the gate to pen 3
The plunger latches on these gates provide both speed and security. The medium sized animal is ushered into pen three. The alley handler is safe and secure behind the gate.
In this hub sorting set up we have four handlers to share the work. This is a safer and more efficient set up that minimizes the amount of movement any one handler will need to perform.
A) Two handlers work the hub together which makes it easier to control the group while cutting a single head out of the group.
B) In the sorting alley there is a handler in charge of a single sorting gate. By minimizing handler movement we can minimize risk and maximize processing efficiency
C) To minimize risk the gates swing across the alley and make positive contact on the other side of the alley. In this position, the handler is on the opposite side of the gate to the cattle. Also note how the handler steps out of the sorting alley if the livestock need to move past them to be sorted into a pen further along the sorting alley. This will help to keep the handler safely out of the path of the livestock while also clearing the alley for the livestock to move without distraction or hesitation.
Note: For increased safety the pen closest to the hub should have the quickest operator and the animals going into this pen should represent either the smallest number of animals in their group or be the least dangerous group. These steps are suggested as the individual who is required to operate the first gate will have the least amount of time to react when an animal is released from the sorting hub.
More cattle handling resources:
- How to work cattle with a Bud Box
- How to sort cattle in a livestock sorting alley
- How to work your cattle's flight zone
- The benefits of understanding cattle behavior
- Cattle facilities design guide
- Cattle handling systems and livestock corral design service
- Sample cattle handling system designs
- Sample cattle corral plans
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