Jim Brede is in the process of building a ranch and establishing a quality herd of cows. It’s a challenge that has called on him to utilize his skills as a herdsman, carpenter, nutritionist, and … well, a rancher. But it was his skill as a welder — and corral designer — that earned him recognition as a runner-up in Drovers’ 2004 Profit Tips Contest.
Mr. Brede moved to northeast Oklahoma from Colorado six years ago and purchased 160 acres, adding 640 acres two years later. He immediately began seeding a mixture of cool- and warm-season grasses on the land to lengthen the grazing season. He also built cross fences to create a rotational grazing system for his cows. And he’s spent a lot of time remodeling the ranch house located on the property. But the unique corral system is the showcase of his Lonesome Pine Ranch.
“I have built several corrals for other people, and I knew that pens with square corners made handling cattle harder,” he says. “I wanted to build a corral that would reduce or eliminate those problems, and make it easier for people to handle or work cattle.”
Mr. Brede designed the corral to complement the rotational grazing system. Cattle are driven down an alley that feeds into a large, round catch pen at one end of the corral. From there, the cattle can be driven into one of five smaller round pens.
Three of the smaller pens are located on one side of the corral’s alley and two more similar pens are on the opposite side of the alley. The gates to each pen swing across the alley so cattle can be sorted either directly across or diagonally across the alley.
The curved design of the pens means Mr. Brede and his fiancée, Shawna Galbraith, can easily sort calves from cows without using dogs, stock prods or other stress-inducing methods. “This system keeps the cattle as quiet as possible.”
At the front of the corral is a curved alley leading to a chute for working cows. By swinging one gate, Mr. Brede can close the wider cow alley and open a narrower alley for calves. At the end of the calf alley, a calf table can be attached to the corral for procedures that require immobilizing the animals.
Mr. Brede and Ms. Galbraith have also invested significant time and labor in other improvements to the ranch. Brush and weeds have been cleared or sprayed to encourage improved grass production. Cattle are moved from one paddock to the next on a regular basis to eliminate continuous grazing and allow maximum rest time for the forages.
The rotational grazing system also fits with Mr. Brede’s objective to handle cattle in a low-stress manner. “Our cattle are used to seeing people. When we go out and open a gate to a new pasture, they come to us rather than running away from us,” he says.
“We make every effort to reduce stress for the cattle and the people,” Mr. Brede says. “This corral system helps us do that. And it makes it easy to find a neighbor to come and help us work calves because they know that things will go pretty smoothly.”