Tal-Tec, the designer and manufacturer of farming solutions for the better management and control of livestock, has recently released a circular forcing race for cattle. The company’s CEO, Greg Talbot, unpacks the animal behaviour that underpins the design.
One of Tal-Tec’s early successes was the very first Cattle Spray Race. “Traditionally, cattle are plunged into a deep dipping bath to get rid of insects such as ticks that cause heartwater and Red Water Fever. But the cost of filling the dip with pesticides and the sheer chaos of animals jumping in and out makes a spray-based solution far more cost-effective and easier to manage,” says Greg Talbot, CEO of Tal-Tec, adding that spray race solutions are still an important part of Tal-Tec’s current project offering.
Introducing Tal-Tec’s latest innovation, the Circular Forcing Pen, Talbot says that, like spraying, there are many day-to-day tasks that require cattle to be directed into a single file such as branding, injecting, weighing or testing, for example.
“The traditional way of doing this was to put the whole herd into a holding pen and then to force them into a funnel that narrows them down into single file. But there are always bottlenecks, which create anxiety in the whole herd. Also, as animals move out of the holding pen, the area becomes larger for animals to mill around, causing handlers to have to chase them into the final section again,” say Talbot.
A forcing pen or crush is used to keep the animals squeezed together so they can’t mill around. “A forcing gate is pushed forward behind the animals, steadily reducing the size of the pen as the animals move into the funnel. It has a simple brake that prevents the gate from being pushed backwards and it keeps the animals squeezed together while steadily moving them forward,” he explains. “Our unique one-way braking system has been designed so that the harder the cattle push back, the more braking resistance is generated.”
Greg Talbot started thinking about how to incorporate aspects of animal behaviour into forcing race designs after he met Doctor Roger Hunsley at a Stockman School event about 10 years ago. “Doctor Hunsley put me in touch with Temple Grandin, who applies her personal and professional knowledge of autism to animal behaviour.
“She says that animals always like to go back to a place of comfort or calmness. So if they were in a holding pen and you started to chase them out, they will naturally seek to circle around to that place where they felt safe. That is what our new Circular Forcing Race does. It makes the herd believe that they are going back around to where they came from,” says Talbot, explaining that the cattle are pushed away from the safe pen by a pivoting forcing gate that pushes them around in a semi-circle.
Grandin also highlights the comfort animals experience by being in close proximity together, which relates to the calming effect experienced by autistic people when they use a hug box or squeeze machine. “I have also noticed this with our body clamp, which is used to squeeze an individual animal in order to keep them still while being injected or branded,” says Talbot.
Tal-Tec is a local manufacturer of these modern animal management solutions: “We try to keep our solutions as simple and cost-effective as possible, so that they can be used anywhere. In South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, we have very good agents and established networks, so many farmers can walk into their local coops to buy Tal-Tec products.
“It’s all flat packed so that farmers can self-assemble for themselves and the products are also modular, to enable smaller systems to be expanded as the need arises,” Greg Talbot concludes.