Everything’s easier if you have the right tools. That’s the philosophy Jim Brede used when he set out to build a new corral on his Bluejacket, Okla., ranch. Incorporating a round or curved design into every aspect of the corral makes handling cattle easy, he says, and significantly reduces working time.
Mr. Brede moved to northeast Oklahoma from Colorado six years ago and began establishing his ranching operation. He first purchased 160 acres, then added 640 acres that included a house, some outbuildings and a corral that needed to be replaced.
“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 he’s established on his ranch. 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,” he says.
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.
This unique corral was built with all new materials three years ago, including 7⁄ 8-inch sucker rod and 2 7⁄ 8-inch pipe posts, at a cost of about $11,000. “Prices have increased significantly the past three years, and the same pen might cost double today what it cost me then,” Mr. Brede says.
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, and fences were erected to divide the ranch into grazing paddocks. 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. Conditioning cattle in that manner means horses and ATVs are not needed to drive the cattle.
“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.”