Constructing cattle yards for small landholders

Page last updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017 - 1:50pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Location of yards

Consider the following points when decding on the location of your yards:

  • Arrange access to laneways and/or as many paddocks as possible.
  • Keep yards away from living areas to minimise noise, flies, dust and smell.
  • Allow for all-weather access for trucks.
  • Water and power should be laid on or close at hand.
  • Good drainage is essential. Shade trees make working cattle more pleasant in summer.

Design safety checklist – hazard audit

  • Are receiving yards large enough for the herd size to be handled?
  • Are all gates sound, swung clear of the ground and capable of being secured in both open and closed positions?
  • Are gate latches mounted at an appropriate height, of a design that doesn’t create pinch or crush points and well maintained?
  • Are there any projections, such as nails or bolts that may injure humans or animals?
  • Are there any dug-out or boggy areas that might pose a trip, slip or fall hazard?
  • Do the yards have blind spots or areas where stock flow is restricted or cattle baulk?
  • Do the drafting and forcing yards have a safe area or effective escape route for yard workers?
  • Is the yard an appropriate size for the classes of stock being handled?
  • Does the rail spacing allow safe access to animals for tasks to be undertaken such as vaccinating?
  • Are the race and gate caps secure and at a safe working height so as not to interfere with handling operations?
  • Are all sliding gates sound, easily operated and capable of being secured so that they will not open if kicked or struck?
  • Do sliding gates have handles and guards to prevent the operators hand entering any gaps between the slide gates and support posts, which could be nip or crush points?
  • Is there safe access to the work area to remove animals that might go down or become jammed?
  • Does the ramp have an apron of 1-1.5m at the end to allow the opening and closing of truck gates?
  • Is there a sliding gate at the top of the ramp that can be accessed safely to secure animals on the truck once it is loaded?
  • Does the ramp have a catwalk of 1-1.5m minimum width on at least one side of the ramp?
  • Are watering points and troughs in sound order and positioned where they don’t pose a trip, slip or fall hazard?
  • Are there options for dust control, including water for sprinkler or irrigation systems?
  • Are water pipes buried, or run overhead or along railing systems to avoid being damaged and so as not to create a trip hazard?


Any combination of materials can be used in the construction, the choice depending on local availability of materials and the amount you are prepared to spend.

The areas that receive a lot of pressure from stock — such as gateways, forcing yard and race — need to be sturdy and well-constructed. You can’t afford to compromise on materials here. Panels should be made of sawn or bush timber, steel pipe or special cattle mesh.

Wire rope or cable is well suited for the outer fence in circular yards, and sheep mesh with bush timber rails on top works well where the yards are to be used for holding sheep as well.

Timber posts should be a minimum of 200mm diameter, and steel pipe at least 75mm. Posts in the race and forcing areas should be cemented into the ground. In some soils, cross-bracing at ground level or at the top may be necessary to reduce the chance of spreading.