Country Living Series

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another tangible investment

For some time now, I've been urging people to consider tangible investments rather than intangible investments. Fiat currency and all the investment portfolios in the world are subject to endless economic tweaking that could leave their real worth far less than you think.

To that end, Don and I have always tried to think in terms of what would make our homestead more efficient and productive. Anything that fills these qualifications are, we feel, a worthwhile investment.

This past week we had to have a vet come to dehorn a four-month-old calf, give her brucellosis and tuberculosis tests, and get all her shots up to date in order to sell her. As expected, it was a physical nightmare because let me tell you, a four-month-old calf has a LOT of kick in her. I was almost nauseous with dread as the vet visit approached, knowing what kind of rodeo I could expect. Then there was the follow-up vet visit to check the tuberculosis test, which necessitated catching her once again. In short, it was a lot of hard work. Hard, and potentially dangerous. A stray hoof could kick us in the gut or the head and do a fair bit of damage. And this was a calf, not a full-grown cow.

Don and I are getting too old for this. That was our conclusion.

Yet we are determined to remain in this homesteading lifestyle, so we had to come up with a way to continue that won't threaten us with physical injury. The solution? A squeeze chute.

A squeeze chute is something we've needed for a long, long, long time... but the price has always put us off. Good squeeze chutes can run anywhere from $3000 to $7000, depending on how many bells and whistles they have. But after this past week's multiple rodeos, Don got on Craig's List and started searching out any possibilities.

And oh my, he hit the jackpot.

$950 is an awful lot of money for us, but we justified it two ways. One, if we're going to buy a big-ticket item, this is literally the only time of year we can do so, when we have a shot of income from the busy season for our woodcraft business. And two, the cost of a squeeze chute is ultimately cheaper than the cost of hospital bills from a concussion or bruised internal organs while trying to wrestle with a recalcitrant animal; or of additional vet costs for an injured animal.

Besides, this chute is far less expensive than anything else we could find. Don drove out on Wednesday and inspected it from top to bottom and found it's in superb condition, with the exception of some rotted-out wooden floor boards (which are easy to replace). Don paid the man on the spot so no one else would snap up this bargain.

So yesterday morning despite the pelting rain, we borrowed a neighbor's trailer and drove to the farm where the squeeze chute was located. It was about an hour's drive away, further into the mountains. Lovely location.

The seller didn't have all his firewood in yet, but he had a good start.

The seller was originally from Austria (he sounded exactly like Arnold Schwartzenager) and was retiring from raising beefalo. Beefalo are a cross between bisen and beef cattle, and apparently the meat is superb. However the animals are powerful and testy, far more wild than cattle, so needless to say a sturdy squeeze chute was essential. I figured if this chute could handle beefalo, it certainly can handle Dexters!

(Can you see the rain pelting on the pond?)

The seller already had the chute chained up to a track hoe, ready to load.

He lifted the unit and placed it on the trailer...

...then carefully nudged it until it was balanced in the middle. Then Don strapped it down for the trip home.

Before leaving, the seller showed us some other equipment he had for sale -- a sidebar mower, a plow blade, some balers, etc. There was an impressive yellow-jacket nest inside one of the balers.

That's a solid nest down in the bottom of this roll of baling twine. Good thing the weather was chilly and the insects were sluggish, or I sure as heck wouldn't be photographing them this closely!

The seller told us something about the sheer strength of the beefalo, and the damage they could do to intrastructure. For example they easily bent this sturdy tube gate.

More flimsy barriers such as this pressed metal gate...

...are often reduced to metal matchsticks.

I decided that no matter HOW fabulous the meat might be, I had no interest in raising something as powerful and half-wild as a beefalo. I like my Dexters and Jerseys.

We drove home with our new treasure... pardon me, investment... and parked it until a neighbor can come over with his beefy tractor to unload it.

Isn't that a pretty sight?

We still have a lot to do before the squeeze chute is usable. We need to build a run to funnel the animals into it. The run will be in a Y-shape, one branch of which will lead to the chute and the other of which will lead to a loading ramp for a livestock trailer. But the squeeze chute is the key to making life on our homestead a lot less dangerous and stressful, both for us and for the livestock.

In short, we'd rather have $950 put into a squeeze chute, than $950 sitting in the bank where it's subject to inflation or even government seizure.

Yes, tangible investments. Good idea.


  1. Awesome find . You guys lucked out and hit the Jackpot. I agree with you on tangibles. I'll take Chow over coinage any day of the week.

  2. As a vet who has worked on livestock, I applaud your decision to invest in the squeeze chute. Safer for humans, and easier on everyone! It's so frustrating when you are trying to work on animals that you simply can't restrain properly.

  3. Yep. It's a good idea to get as much of the high dollar useful equipment as you can right now. There may not be much time left to get those things later.

  4. Once you get it operational your "cattle handling" life will improve greatly. You will save many bruises and broken fingers and toes.


  5. Hi Folks,

    I went with goats.

    You might be sensitive to being laughed at in your neck of the woods for not having beef, but here where I am I got a lot of mileage from them being a neat conversation piece.

    The thing is, when I was a young man I worked with large animals for about five years and had plenty of damage from the experience to ever want to do that again. so, when it came time for my wife and I to pick some livestock to milk and eat (not to mention herd around, nudge and shove into place, and feed) the goat was the practical answer. We, and our two girls (now grown) had milk running out our ears from just two goats bringing us almost a gallon a day each. I've had my toes stepped on any number of times by the rascals, and not one broken toe! And when they get ornery, I always win the argument - cool! Goat tastes just fine, the leather is o.k. and the milk is even preferable for lactose intolerant folks - which seemed to come out of the woodwork when they heard we had extra milk available.
    The goats are gone now and all that is left is two huge Great Pers (both more white than yours) that still guard the back yard with grace and beauty.
    Good for you for thinking big, but my wife and I are starting to pare down and were glad to be able to sell off the goats to people with a pickup truck and no special hauling capability.

    Oh, I almost forgot - goats, ours at least, never seemed to get sick. They were very hardy. And that was a good thing for a whole bunch of financial reasons. No vet bills and no outside expense when we had a doe and her kid fail to thrive after birth. Both died and, though sad, weren't a great loss to our pocket book. A vet explained that it was hardly worth an owner to call a vet when a whole goat can be replaced for about the price of a vets house call.

    God bless as you and yours thrive.

    Will Robertson

    1. I just left another comment about goats/sheep and the benefits of smaller stock without seeing this comment first. I have had a very easy time with buying/selling goats and you're right about the ease of managing a herd when each animal is less costly per unit (even though that sounds very harsh, any livestock owner would understand). I have had our best milker to the vet once when she got poisoned, but generally none of my goats get sick. The sheep were another story, and that is partially why we no longer have them. Sheep don't take Central FL weather very well.

  6. Really a smart move. Nice chute & really good deal. Your life will be so much easier!
    We used to keep Dexters and did have trouble with our chute not holding them due to their small size.Your chute looks like it will squeezed down tight enough.Enjoy the freedom of no more rodeos :-) and trouble free worming, assisted calving and assorted herd heath.

  7. I am sooooo jealous!! Back in the day, when I was raising cattle, I would have given my right arm for one of those. Cost prohibitive though, just as you say. And back then I was young and still able to wrestle with large livestock. Now.....different story. And my farming partner keeps saying we need to get some cows again. Not without a, investment, like yours. What a score!!!

  8. My dad was once kicked by a calf, and it shattered his knee. he was out of commission right at harvest time...and it still bothers him to this day.

    Very good investment in my opinion!

  9. Have you ever considered building one out of wood instead of buying the one you show? The reason I ask is because I also wasn't raised in a farming family and don't live on a farm now. However back in college I had the opportunity to live for about 5 years on a farm and participate in several activities I never thought I would ever do. One of which was our own butchering.

    We would butcher steer and hogs every year and 4 families would get together to help cut and package everything for the whole year. I did the whole deal from slaughter to packaging because I wanted to say I had done just about everything to bring my food to the table.

    When we did the slaughter we used a small brick barn that was attached to pen where we kept the cows and hogs before we slaughtered them.

    In the back of the barn we had a little door to bring them in and a wooden gate on hinges that would wrap around and lock to the wall around the door. When it was closed it made a little pen not much wider than the shoot you show in the photos. We would fasten the gate and then go out in the pen and "push" a cow into the little door. Once inside it was basically just big enough for the cow to stand, but not turn around or move anywhere. It was in this position that we would kill them and then open the gate to put a chain around the foot to pull them up and gut them. However the pen could also be used to hold them steady if your only task was giving them shots as well.

    I must admit this was a very messy job, but the methods we employed worked very well.

  10. Great deal!!! I had tried that funnel idea and it did not work for me. If you have the room try putting your shute in the barn. I use the driveway in the barn and use a 90 degree crowd tub to push the cattle down a 10 foot X 2foot run into the shute. The head gate releases the cattle into an area outside the barn. By staggering gates inside the barn in the driveway you can push the cattle easily towards the shute. I can work my small herd by myself and be safe!!! I'll try to e-mail you some pics. Idaho Bill

  11. yes, it is beautiful. i love the color.

    look up 'nauseous'. you may have been nauseated, though!!

    d. harvey

  12. Try and make it as level as possible otherwise the front will not close properly when the cows hit it. Rancher from Canada

  13. Yeah!

    Y'all scored!

    Good move, Don and Patrice. This is a wise investment.

    Life just got better on El Rancho de Lewis. I know your vet will thank you, too.

    A. McSp

  14. Patrice,

    I would have to say, you are so correct about money sitting in the bank in regards to inflation or government seizure. It's better to take money out of the bank and invest the money in something needed on the homestead or stash it away.

    1. Amen, sisters. I do not keep much money in the bank for that reason. The government has grabby fingers, so I don't want them in my cookie jar.

  15. I agree that money that you earn today will be worth much less later. I was looking through a magazine from 1984 yesterday and was amazed how much the prices had gone up even from then. When I can I purchase things that will last. To that end I can not wait until Don puts some tankards up for retail sale again. I got one for my son last year and was blown away by the quality. I have now started boiling my water for tea instead of using the microwave so I can use the tankard for my morning tea. The wood should hold the heat better than the glass mug that I use now.

  16. I agree with Sandy.

    Ralph in AZ

  17. Good investment for your safety. As we get older the less energy and strength we have. Something stupid such as slipping in mud will put you out of commission. That happened to me this past winter. Slipped, fell, knocked myself out and broke three ribs in my back. Seven months later, it still twinges.

  18. Speaking of good investments, have you looked into "Wood Gasification" to power your gasoline motor driven generator, tractor, car or truck. The process burns wood to create smoke which is cleared/ scrubbed of impurities, leaving a mix of gasses
    (hydrogen is the key one) that will act as fuel to power your engines. The process was popular in Europe to power their tractors, especially after the war when there was a shortage of gas or it was very expensive. FEMA has an 85+/- page booklet on the science and how to build one. U-tube has several models, including one gentleman that runs his truck on both wood and/or gas. He says wood is more efficient, but he sacrifices some power. Point being you don't have to stockpile gas and I believe this thing will run on anything that creates smoke.

  19. Perfect investment for your homestead! Gotta love Craigslist!

  20. Perfect investment for your homestead! Gotta love Craigslist!

  21. Dear cows,

    I'm the human and I have TOOLS! I will win because I have a better brain and opposable thumbs.

    Just Me

  22. Now that you have already sunk a good deal of money into a tool to help manage large cattle, perhaps this is not the right time to ask... But: Why have you chosen cattle rather than a mixture of sheep and goats? My very small herd of goats keeps us in plenty of milk and between the lambs and the goat kids we have lots of high quality meat in sizes small enough to use/process by myself without specialized equipment or even refrigeration (should the need arise). I know you raise smaller breeds of cattle, but they take much longer to raise a single animal from conception to slaughter than sheep/goat. Anyways, just curious. Thanks! :)

    1. We chose cattle because I don't care for goat milk and my husband doesn't care for lamb/mutton. But we both like cow milk and beef, so it seemed like the logical solution.

      As for preserving the meat, we're prepared to butcher only during weather when it's cold enough to temporarily keep the meat from going bad, after which I'll can up all usable cuts (I keep enough canning jars reserved for that purpose).

      - Patrice

    2. Good response. I can tell you've thought this through. There are a lot of "preppers" in my area that, well, don't think things through. Its nice to hear from someone with brains. Keep up the good work! :)

  23. You will love the squeeze chute! We have one which we purchased after I got kicked. We need to replace our boards but I won't work big cattle with out it.
    We have goats too, that we milk. The cattle are beef cattle. In our neck of the woods, a good milking cow is around $1200 and our budget couldn't do that. But we could do some goats a little at a time!

  24. I hope you are following these guys on YouTube - The PetersonFarmBros they have a new video - Bale