Planning a better building

Christensen Farms, Beresford, S.D., can load seven potloads of fat cattle in 70 minutes — thanks to a new indoor working and loading facility.Marlow Christenson and his wife, Donna, operate the 2,000-head feedlot with sons Dale, Doug and Don and their families.

Two years ago, they built a 60-by-54-foot barn with working and loading chutes, horse stalls and office-vet supply storage space inside. Everything in the Morton building was designed with efficiency, worker safety and low-stress cattle handling in mind.

Lights illuminate every corner of the building, eliminating dark shadows that often spook livestock.

Key Points

• Indoor working facility improves feedlot efficiency.

• South Dakota family designed low-stress handling system.

• Its features keep cattle calm and workers safe.


Wide doors allow cattle to enter side by side rather than single file, which is more natural for them and reduces stress.

A Bud Box staging area uses cattle’s natural instinct to turn around when confronted with a barrier and try to escape the same way they came in. But instead of escaping, the cattle enter the crowding tub, which leads to the working or loading chutes.

Double feeder alleys to both the loading and working chutes enable cattle to move through side by side for a time until they are funneled into a single alley. Cattle can see each other between the 2-inch pipes that divide the 32-inch-wide double alleys. The double alley allows cattle to move together, which is more natural for them.

Six-foot-high, 8-inch-thick concrete walls form the sides of the loading chute. Three sides of the barn are also 6-foot-high concrete, allowing both the inside and outside of the building to be used as part of the alleys and staging areas.

The crowding tub has a 500-pound solid-steel swing gate hinged on a thick concrete pillar. When pushing the gate, the handler is fully protected. The gate’s stop prevents cattle from pushing it backward.

The horse stalls are handy because the Christensens ride horses to check pens and move cattle. Horses can be kept close by, but penned securely and comfortably.

An office, vet supply room and bathroom save steps for handlers. Everything needed to work cattle is stored properly in the barn.

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CREATIVE TEAM: All members of the Christensen family contributed ideas to the design of the building. Pictured in front of the horse stalls inside the barn are (left to right) Marlow and Donna, and sons Dale and Doug. Son Don is not pictured.

This article published in the July, 2010 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.