Designing Livestock Handling Facilities

What you should be looking for in terms of safety, cow flow and Location?

When designing a crush, parlour exit race or any other handling facilities there are several factors to consider. Safety, cow flow,  management and handling of livestock, location, future developments, your yard layout and how it will fit into your day to day activities. Implementing all these facts is not always possible, but all should be considered and are good starting points for design. Most of all using handling facilities should not be a chore, a well-designed handling facility should fit in with your day to day routine seamlessly.


Safety is a given and should always be the first and final deciding factors. When designing livestock handling facilities we design it with the user and animal in mind, all our crush panels bolt together allowing for quick opening if a sick animal goes down, you can also get the panels hinged with a latch, handy for dropping in a weighing scale. All latches are stock proof so they cannot be opened by the cattle. Our back gate has an optional slam latch so you do not need to step in behind the gate when closing it. We also do an anti-jump rail that attaches the poles of the crush. These features are simple in designs but are very effective in keeping you and your cattle safe.

Cow Flow

Cow flow, location are very much intertwined and are key to the functionality of the crush setup and the movement of cattle. Poor cow flow can lead to frustration, loss of time and increased risk when handling cattle.  A couple of simple tips,

  • Don’t have a crush leading into a dark spot as cattle will not move up the race.
  • The crush gate should be in a well light area encouraging cattle to move towards the light.
  • Cattle like flat ground, they do not like slopes, if there is a slope they prefer uphill to downhill.
  • Cattle who feel unstable in their footing do not stay in the frame of mind to move calmly and can add to any anxiety, this is as important in the collecting area as in the race.
  • A point picked up from a vet, most farmers only handle their cattle from one side because they have a wall at the other, kick out the head of the crush or extending beyond the wall can give you access from both sides of the cattle.

Fixed Cattle Crush

Dairy Location

Where people can easily go wrong in picking a location is viewing this a standalone item on a farm and place them outside their working area. The modern parlour exit race is the perfect example of placing your crush and handling facilities in your working area, using it as part of your daily routine. The modern parlour exit would not be complete without a drafter, drafters have animals ready and waiting for you to handle, turning a half an hour job into a 5  min one. Our 360-degree gate adds to the ease of handling and loading cows in the race, penning or exit race.  The other benefit of a parlour exit is that the cows are used to running through a race daily making them easier to handle.

360 Degree Gate

360 Degree Gate


Beef Location

For beef animals, the location is dictated by your style of farming and farm layout. they are several factors need to be assessed to decide on the location. Is the farm in one block or split up. How long are you housing cattle (depends on weather and where in the country you are located), the layout of your yard or fields and how they are positioned in relation to your housing facilities.

  1.  Split.

If split a mobile option might be better. You can also get mobile penning and a collection area that stack away after use. More work but maybe the most cost-effective if you are renting land or have several locations to cover.

2. Housing

You have two option when housing you can build it in the house or just have in on an external wall. This all depends on your current or new buildings and how it will fit in.

External standard crush

An external setup is easy enough to fit into a new or existing setup. Only a small number of deciding factors and easy to fit in anywhere that suits. The design will be up to your need and style of farming.

Cattle Crush

Cattle crush and race


Internal Setup

An Internal crush needs to be well thought out and planned for or it may not work with your setup. The flow of cattle, the penning set up and external access the crush must all be planned for. Scale and space are some of the more difficult things to imagine. Visualising and having enough space to work without losing to much cattle housing in the shed is a tricky balance. Good planning and communication of ideas and needs are key to getting the design right.

3. Field or Outside Farm

Outside farm or roadside setup is complete up the needs of the user. The size of the holding, cattle groups and the movement of cattle to and from the holding. A good crush and penning is always handy, see example below.

Fixed Cattle Crush

Example of a well planned out setup that caters for the user’s needs. A part-time suckler farmer and is on his own when handling cattle. This setup was designed with a creep gate for feeding calves in the collection area, and narrow gate for loading cattle in the trailer. simple but very effective one-man setup.

Plan, plan and plan again

They say when you build a house you get the third one right. Here in O’Donovan Engineering will help you get it right first time! With 40 years’ experience in the market, we have the solutions to make your livestock handling facilities work for you. Our experienced sales and engineering team will work directly with you. Designing the optimum layout to fit your needs. For more information Click below or Call 021 7334066

O'Donovan Eng