Hydraulic sorting gates are a great addition to any corral system that is working a lot of cows. They let you work faster, more accurately, safer, and with less people. The only draw back is the expense, and the need for some “know-how” to put a system together that works right the first time.
I’ve probably put in close to 200 sorting gates in my life and I’d like to share some tips with you here. It’s a big subject, so I’m going to break it down into a few posts to properly go thru everything.
There are two places you would use a hydraulic gate. The first is in front of the chute for sorting, the second is at the tub or bud box for forcing cattle into the alley.
They work great for sorting in front of the chute. These gates are usually controlled at the chute, or on a switchboard at the desk of the guy recording information. they can be opened when you make a decision on what group the cow will go into. These gates are usually lighter duty and the hydraulics can be set up to just move the gate without having to worry about latching it shut.
Hydraulic gates also work great where you are forcing cows into the alley. A tub gate, bud box gate, or staging gate in the alley before a tub are great examples. These gates are heavier, and usually have to swing 90 degrees, or in the case of tubs, 180 or 270 degrees. Staging gates also take a lot of pressure when groups of cows push against them.
If they are properly installed, hydraulic gates are very strong and reliable, but there are some weak points to every system.
The biggest weak point is the that the cylinders are pushing on a long gate from very close to the hinge. It takes a lot of force to move and stop the gate from this position. Now, when the cylinder starts you have a little bit of cushion from your hoses and bypass valve, but when the cylinder stops, it stops almost instantly as the valve closes. A second weak point is closely related. The cylinder is holding the gate closed when groups of cows press against it. If you are in a pressure area, you must put a latch on the gate, or you will be dealing with a broken mounting bracket pretty quickly
Another weakness is more to do with the hydraulics. In the cold weather of a northern winter, it can be a challenge to get your hydraulics system working. A sorting system has a unique feature that many other hydraulics don’t have, and that’s that they have very long hoses running in a circuit to all the gates. These hoses hold a lot of fluid, and they create a lot of resistance. When the oil is super cold, all this fluid conspires to try to keep your motor from getting up to speed to operate. The result is burned up electric motors.
The next post will talk about the features in the systems, then we will go thru each item in detail.
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