STILLWATER — Many agricultural producers find putting in a few personal touches to be useful and practical when it comes to designing their cattle catch pens and working facilities.

There are as many designs and ideas of catch pens as there are cattle owners, said Kent Barnes, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension area livestock specialist.

“Cattle producers with a smaller number of animals have the same need for a catch pen and working facilities as producers who raise large numbers of animals,” Barnes said. “The difference is the size of the pen needed and the number of available cow units to pay for the pen.”

The ideal catch pen may have one main objective but must incorporate a number of useful functions.

“The main objective is the confinement of a herd to impose management,” Barnes said. “One large pen can allow this objective to be accomplished, although not always very smoothly for one person. If a squeeze chute isn’t in your plan, then the facilities to sort and load cattle to be hauled to a working chute for management purposes will be needed.”

Barnes suggests these simple rules for a catch pen to function simply and safely:

4 If possible, build catch pens to not have any 90 degree corners.

4 Look for an area where cattle can relax, such as pasture corners, shade, and water and feed troughs.

4 Fence should typically be made of pipe or lumber.

4 Be sure to use an adequate number and size of post in the fence line to hold up against animal crowding pressure.

“Wire panels and T-posts should not be used because they bend and brake easily,” Barnes said. “Pipe post with pipe rails makes a durable and long-lasting fence.”

As many producers have learned, the best feature of a good set of catch pens is gentle cattle.

“Frequently being around cattle may help them remain fairly calm during their trip through the catch pen or working facility,” Barnes said. “If replacement heifers are scared of a pen at an early age, they can carry this forward as adult cows and be hard to handle.”

Plans for developing working facilities are available through all OSU Cooperative Extension county offices, usually located under “County Government” in local telephone directories.