Cattle mats help prevent slips and injuries when processing

Mats are a simple and relatively inexpensive way to improve traction and reduce slips, says Lacombe feedlot operator

Slips, trips, and falls in cattle can be common occurrences when putting animals through handling systems.

For Lacombe-area farmer Colin Rice, preventing these occurrences when they built their feedlot was on their to-do list. Rice, who operates Rice Farms Ltd. with his cousin, decided to start a feedlot when they took over the farm three years ago.

When Rice started the feedlot, he was starting from scratch, so he did his research.

“We travelled around and investigated different operations to see what they had,” he said.

When he went to one operation in particular, he said, they were talking about mats as cattle were being processed. When the cows exited the chute, which was on concrete, they had to turn left because of the way the chute was facing. The producer remarked he had quite a few injuries from the animals exiting the chute too fast.

“After that, we thought, ‘We should put some mats in,’” Rice said. “As we toured around to more operations, the mats seemed to be the best practice.”

He figured since they were starting from scratch, the mats were a minimal expense in the grand scheme of things.

This mat in front of the chute at Rice Farms Ltd. has seen a lot of traffic but no injuries to cattle being processed.
photo: Supplied

The ones he chose for his chute are a roll-style mat similar to ones used in livestock trailers. The mats are on both the front and back side of the hydraulic chute.

The mats are nice, but just like any farm setup, they still have some issues with them. His chute has a brisket bar built in, so as the cattle exit, they sometimes come out leaning.

“When (the cows) hit the mat, it slides out. When we’re putting 150 head through there, the front mat slides a little bit, every few animals.”

But they have not had any injuries to cattle.

“In three years, we put 1,200 animals through a year, three to four times a year, and we’ve had no injuries at all.”

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Mats in the chute area at Rice’s are not just for the cattle. He also has a few smaller “anti-fatigue” mats that he stands on while working the chute.

“It keeps my feet warmer,” he said, adding there’s a noticeable difference compared to standing on the opposite side of the chute where someone must stand on a bare concrete floor.

Having mats to stand on is also easier on joints and knees, he said.

“I’m doing 5,000 steps within two square metres in a day when we’re bringing animals in; it’s way easier on my knees and hips. It seemed like it was a prudent thing to do.”

About the author

Contributor

Jill Burkhardt

Jill Burkhardt, her husband, Kelly, and their two children, own and operate a mixed farm near Gwynne, Alberta. Originally hailing from Montana, she has a degree in Range Management from Montana State University. Jill’s agricultural passions are cattle and range management but she enjoys writing and learning more about all aspects of farming.

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