University feedlot works to find answers for the beef industry

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As reported in High Plains Journal for generations, improvements in cattle handling equipment were based on guesswork. Livestock producers observed cattle behavior, and equipment manufacturers made adjustments, sometimes only to change them back.

At the Klosterman Feedlot Innovation Center, a state-of-the-art, commercial-scale feedlot research center under construction at the Eastern Nebraska Research, Extension and Education Center, researchers have the opportunity to attach data to those observations.

A Husker-red cattle handling system manufactured and donated by Daniels Manufacturing Co. in Ainsworth, Nebraska, the latest addition to the facility, is a “dream come true for many,” said Ruth Woiwode, assistant professor of animal behavior and well-being at UNL. Woiwode is part of the team that planned the facility and is charged with dreaming up the future of the research to be conducted there.

Those dreams are big.

The processing barn that will house the Daniels Manufacturing Co. cattle handling system will also feature a separate cattle handling system, donated by ArrowQuip, that will allow side-by-side studies of cattle handling facilities and methods. An elevated classroom with one-way glass will let students and industry stakeholders observe cattle handling without interfering with the process, and a wall of screens in the classroom connected to cameras throughout the facility will enhance those observations.

The processing barn reflects the facilities in feedlots where cattle are given vaccines and other health treatments.

In operations that work thousands of cattle every year, small changes in facility design or handling practices can mean big results in stress reduction, safety or efficiency for animals or humans.

The Daniels system includes a double alleyway and a Bud Box. The Bud Box is named after Bud Williams, a pioneer in low-stress animal handling who developed the system. The Bud Box is a rectangular pen that is positioned at a right angle to the entry point of the double alley leading to the squeeze chute where cattle are held for treatment.

“Both handling systems are designed to capitalize on an animal’s natural tendency to return to where they came from,” Woiwode said. “Some of those details come down to the actual layout and understanding, from a handler perspective, where they need to stand and move in relation to the cattle.”

The work UNL is planning at the Klosterman Feedlot Innovation Center will provide data that can be used to further streamline facility design.

“We can test concepts related to the number of animals and alley width, number of handlers, handler skill level, just to mention a few,” Woiwode said.  With two systems side-by-side, Woiwode says UNL can generate an enormous dataset that can be used to inform the design of working facilities, and best practices for cattle handling in the respective facilities.

When Woiwode and her team started planning this project, they thought it made sense to include Daniels Manufacturing Co., a Nebraska company with a 65-year history in the cattle industry. Dude Daniels started Daniels Manufacturing Co. in 1958, building autogates, gates and panels. “When Dude had an idea he would dive in head first and devote his time to building something the best way possible for the cattle and the user,” said Kade Blake, sales manager and design consultant for Daniels Manufacturing Co. “He started building the double alleyway back in the early ’90s, and the very first one is still in use today down in Oklahoma.”

Dude’s son and daughter-in-law, Danny and Teri, took over the company when Dude passed away. In 2001 they went to a Bud Williams cattle handling seminar and came home determined to figure out how those ideas could be used to improve their equipment. “Danny was the first person to manufacture and sell the Bud Box,” Blake said. “He worked with Bud and the Production Animal Consultation team to come up with the right size, and from there it took off.”

Woiwode had worked with Daniels Manufacturing previously and knew they were committed to finding the best solutions for cattle and handlers, and the future of the cattle industry.

“When Ruth approached us about this project and explained how they were going to focus on stockmanship and study the voluntary flow of cattle, Danny was very excited about that,” Blake said. “Our goal here at Daniels has always been building quality, long-lasting equipment that improves the life of cattle and the cattle handler. We focus on noise elimination, reducing sharp corners and edges, keeping our sides open so cattle can see the handler to use body placement to move the cattle, keeping our sides straight so cattle have a natural footing, and using the highest quality of steel to have equipment that gets used for generations.”

Danny Daniels passed away in April of this year, but before then, he and Blake drove to Lincoln to meet with Woiwode about her plans.
“On our way home, he told me that ‘these kids are going to need our equipment’ and he was so glad to be able to help them out,” Blake said.

Daniels and his contribution to the industry won’t be forgotten. There’s an inscription on the Husker-red alleyway, right below the Husker N and the sticker that says “Daniels Mfg. Co. Ainsworth, Nebraska.” It reads, “Donated in Memory of Danny Daniels 1958-2023.”

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