Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to Make a Calf Crate

Three pallets tied together in the back of my truck.
Alfalfa is strategically located in the corner to give
the calf something to munch on during the trip home.
Today, we drove to Marana to see about a steer calf. He's mostly, if not all, Black Angus, a breed that originated in Scotland. Angus cattle are naturally polled, or hornless. I'm thankful for that after having been bumped by Gucci when I didn't let her out for her walk soon enough for her time standards. I can only imagine what that would have felt like with horns. Ouch.

Back to the calf. He's six months old and weighs close to three hundred pounds. He was a feedlot calf that was bottle raised by the woman who owned him. What this means for me is that he isn't terrified of me when I go into the corral to tend to him.

For anyone interested in transporting a calf in the back of a truck, this post may be helpful. We do not yet own a livestock trailer. We have a friend who does, but this was one of those situations where I felt like we could handle it ourselves. I was originally going to use an extra-large dog crate. And in this case, it probably would have worked being that this calf is very docile. But my friend Angelica was worried about my general safety. She knows I have very little experience with BIG farm animals. She also knows that I do crazy things that I might not have done if I knew better.

Old neighbor gate added and simply fastened with knotted
hay bale twine to serve as a door. Worked like a charm!
So I erred on the side of caution and built a proper crate for the calf using what I had onhand. Pallets. Baling twine, some nails, spare pieces of wood, and a recently taken down chain link gate. In the back of my truck I assembled three heavy wood pallets in a C shape, lashing them together at the junctions with the twine. I nailed on a few braces (salvage bits from another pallet) across the top to keep the pallets stable. Then I placed a large 'roof' atop the pallets which was scrap wood a friend had given me. After affixing that, I had the base structure completed and it was sturdy.

All I needed was a door. The new wall construction meant my neighbor gate had come down. It was exactly the right size for the pallet crate. I lashed it on with more bale twine and we were ready to get a calf. To keep the little guy happy on his journey, I wedged a leaf of alfalfa inside and brought along a container of sweet feed.

I also taught myself how to make a calf halter from rope, but that's another post for another day...

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