My 1st Time Working in a Temple Grandin System

Though I’ve been working with cattle since I was small, I’ve never had the privilege of running cows through a Temple Grandin alley system and squeeze chute until yesterday. So. Much. Fun. Other chute systems have been ruined for me.

The Temple Grandin set-up works best for a cattle operation that works through one central location – which is why I’ve never used one up to this point. My family’s operation now has two headquarters with anywhere between five and eight pastures scattered across both Taylor and Adams counties. Though the majority of the chute work is done at either of the headquarters, cows are often worked on location. This is similar to all the other cattle operations I’ve had the opportunity to work with. A portable corral and chute system is necessary (or a corral and loading alley on each location).

For a person used to the MacGyver way of doing things, working with a Temple Grandin pen and alley system was like licking gelato off a spoon next to a really attractive, really attentive Italian man after a lifetime of eating $1.89 boxes of off-brand ice cream while standing over the kitchen sink.

Holding pen in a corral system

This is a photo of the holding pen. It isn’t large, and it works best when you bring in a half dozen or so at a time. The gate – at the left of the photo – swings around and can lock at each of the vertical slashes on the curved side of the pen. This is amazing; it allows you to maintain a pen size to match the needs of the animals inside it.

View of alley and chute system

Here is another full shot of the pen and alley system. The holding pen I just showed is at the right. The alley curves around to the chute. The solid sides of the alley benefit the cattle moving through it by blocking out any objects that might spook them. It also creates a tunnel of darkness, guiding them towards the lighter opening of the chute end.

Alley way

I’m standing in the alley way, and that little “gate” poking out in the alley helps prevent the cattle from backing up. It swings forward but not backwards. Once an animal pushes through it, the animal can’t return back down the alley. Unless the animal is the size of my dog who walks right underneath it.

Think of it as video game levels. Moving from the holding pen (Level 1) and moving up through the levels (each little gate they push through), and on up to the highest level, this:

Squeeze chute

This is a Powder River squeeze chute which sounds more ominous than it really is. There is a gate that is pulled open to allow a cow to enter the chute. The head gate is opened – the two front panels part a bit like sliding doors. Once a cow pokes her head through, the gate is shut securely enough so she can’t back out or move forward. If a cow is getting agitated, the sides of the chute can be squeezed tighter to prevent injury to the animal.

We worked replacement heifers yesterday morning. They are just over a year old, and like any young creature, they are more difficult to work with than a herd of old mamas who have done it all countless times.

They worked like a dream. I think they’d been through the chute a time or two before, but they marched right down the alley. I can’t say how they behaved in the chute since I wasn’t on that end, but watching those black furry hind ends disappearing down the alley way like this was a normal day for them was neat to watch. A lot of it was due to the set up of the holding pen and alley.

Is it sad I have alley envy? Probably, but I absolutely do!


  1. Thank you for the walk through! I have always wanted to but have never seen one of these systems used either. Kind of like you – we do it the ‘old way’ :).

    • It was absolutely amazing to work them through this system. Most of my experiences will still be with the ‘old way’ though. Now I just know the difference!

  2. When I first started reading this post in my email I thought, “Man, I hope she posted pictures!” so glad you did! It’s cool to really see what you’re talking about. And that does look way easier. Thanks for the informative and entertaining post. Here’s to more days with Italian men!!

    • I wanted to get pictures while we were working, but I didn’t have enough hands. I need to get a small point and shoot camera to stick in my pocket for these types of opportunities.

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