Dwayne and Christy are enhancing the quality of their Black Angus cattle by improving stress and safety conditions at their Leicester farm with the addition of a cattle handling system. They are purchasing a squeeze chute and alleyways as well as moving the new handling facility closer to the feedlot and pasture, improving the efficiency and flow of working the herd.
With better working conditions and a less stressful environment, the cattle will be calmer and easier to work. Stress on cattle can cause reduced weight gain, milk production, feed efficiency and disease immunity. “With the squeeze chute, once the cow or calf is in the chute you are able to squeeze them lightly, which calms them and therefore they should not fight it as much as our current setup,” Christy said. “This new system is a lot quieter than our current head gate and should not scare them as badly.”
With the new facility, Dwayne and Christy are more likely to increase the use of Artificial Insemination as well as begin doing embryo transplants, thus improving the genetics of the herd which will allow them to be more versatile and raise the selling price. It also allows them to market better preconditioned cattle, which commands a higher price with the Southeast Livestock Exchange and Mountain Cattle Alliance. Being able to accurately weigh the cattle also helps in direct sales to customers and more efficient administration of vaccines and/or medicine.
With these enhancements, Dwayne and Christy are keeping alive a 10-year-old business on land that was once her parent’s dairy farm from 1981 to 1996. “It is important to improve and grow so that our passion for farming is not taken from us,” Christy said. “We feel it is a great way of life to teach our son and supports our community.”
“There is an increase in pressure from high land values to sell and develop,” Christy said. “We might be better off financially in the short term to do this, but we want to keep the farm and preserve it for future generations. This project helps us to do just that.”