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A cattle crush and an anti-bruise race in Australia
Chin (or neck) bar in operation during mouthing.

A cattle crush (in British Isles, New Zealand and Australia), squeeze chute,[1] [2] (North America) standing stock, or simply stock (North America, Ireland) is a strongly built stall or cage for holding cattle, horses, or other livestock safely while they are examined, marked, or given veterinary treatment. Cows may be made to suckle calves in a crush. For the safety of the animal and the people attending it, a close-fitting crush may be used to ensure the animal stands "stock still". The overall purpose of a crush is to hold an an animal still in order to minimize the risk of injury to both the animal itself and the operator whilst work on the animal is performed.



Modern portable crush

Crushes were traditionally manufactured from wood, however this was prone to deterioration from the elements over time as well as having the potential to splinter and cause damage to the ainmal. In recent years most budget quality crushes have been built using standard heavy iron pipe that is welded together, while superior quality crushes are now manufactured using doubly - symmetric oval tubing for increasing bending strength, bruise minimisation and stiffness in stockyard applications. In Australia the steel itself should ideally be manufactured to High Tensile Grade 350LO - 450LO and conform to Australian Standards AS 1163 for structural steel.[3]

Cattle crushes may be fully fixed or mobile, however most crushes are best classified as semi-permanent, being potentially movable but designed to primarily stay in one place. A cattle crush is typically linked to a cattle race (also known as an alley). The front end has a head bail (or neck yoke or head gate) to catch the animal and may have a baulk gate that swings aside to assist in catching the beast. The bail is often adjustable to accommodate animals of different sizes. This bail may incorporate a chin or neck bar to hold the animal's head still. A side lever operates the head bail to capture the animals, with the better types having a rear drop-away safety lever for easier movement of the cattle into the bail. Usually smaller animals can walk through the head bails that are incorporated in crushes. [4]

Scanning & weighing crush with timber and belting sides to increase the accuracy of ear tag scanning.

Lower side panels and/or gates of sheet metal, timber or conveyor belting are used in some cases to ensure animals’ legs do not get caught and reduce the likelihood of operator injury.[4] At least one side gate is usually split to allow access to various parts of the animal being held, as well as providing access to feed a calf, among other things. A squeeze crush has a manual or hydraulic mechanism to squeeze the animal from the sides, immobilizing the animal whilst keeping bruising to a minimum. A sliding entrance gate, operated from the side of the crush, is set a couple of feet behind the captured animal to allow for clearance and prevent other animals entering. Crushes will in many cases have a single or split veterinary gate that swings behind the animal to improve operator safety, while preventing the animal from moving backwards by a horizontal rump bar inserted just behind its haunches into one of a series of slots. If this arrangement is absent a palpation cage can be added to the crush for veterinary use when artificial insemination is being performed or for other uses.[5] Older crushes can also be found to have a guillotine gate that is also operated from the side via rope or chain where the gate is raised up for the animal to go under upon entering the crush, and then let down behind the animal.

A crush is a permanent fixture in slaughterhouses, because the animal is carried on a conveyor restrainer under its belly, with its legs dangling in a slot on either side. Carried in this manner, the animal is unable to move either forward or backward by its own volition.[6]

Some mobile crushes are equipped with a set of wheels so that they can be towed from yard to yard. A few of these portable crushes are built so that the crush may also be used as a portable loading ramp.[7] A mobile crush must incorporate a strong floor, to prevent the animal moving it by walking along the ground.

Crushes vary in sophistication, according to requirements and cost. The simplest are just a part of a cattle race (alley) with a suitable head bail. More complex ones incorporate features such as automatic catching systems, hatches (to gain access to various parts of the animal), winches (to raise the feet or the whole animal), constricting sides to hold the animal firmly (normal in North American slaughterhouses), a rocking floor to prevent kicking [8] or a weighing mechanism.

Specialist crushes

Indoor rough-riding chutes, AELEC, Tamworth, New South Wales

Specialist crushes are made for various purposes. For example, those designed for cattle with very long horns (such as Highland cattle or Texas Longhorn cattle) are low-sided or very wide, to avoid damage to the horns. Other specialist crushes include those for tasks such as automatic scanning, foot-trimming or clipping the hair under the belly, and smaller crushes (calf cradles) for calves.

Standing stocks for cattle and horses are more commonly stand-alone units, not connected to races (alleys) except for handling animals not accustomed to being handled. These stand-alone units may be permanent or portable. Some portable units disassemble for transport to shows and sales. These units are used during grooming and also with veterinary procedures performed with the animal standing, especially if it requires heavy sedation. For some surgical procedures this is reported to be efficient,[9] or to permit surgery under sedation rather than general anesthesia.[10] These units also are used during some procedures that require a horse to stand still, but without sedation.[11]

There are two different types of specialized crushes used in rodeo arenas. Those for the "rough stock" events, such as bronc riding and bull riding, are known as bucking chutes or rough-riding chutes. For events such as steer roping, the crush is called a roping chute. The rough-riding chutes are notably higher in order to hold horses and adult bulls, and have platforms and rail spacing that allows riders and assistants to access the animal from above. These chutes release the animal and the rider through a side gate. A roping chute is large enough to contain a steer of the size used in steer wrestling and may have a seat above the chute for an operator. The steer or calf is released through the front of the chute.


Historically, a stock was a simple stand-alone construction of heavy timbers or stone columns and beams, without a head bail or yoke. In Spain they were a village community resource. In France, they were associated with blacksmith shops. These stocks have been widely used in Europe and were the forerunners of today’s crushes.

Many cattle producers managed herds with nothing more than a race (alley) and a headgate (or a rope) until tagging requirements and disease control necessitated the installation of crushes.[12][13]






  1. ^ Cattle handling equipment
  3. ^ Cattle Crush Steel Retrieved on 4 January 2010
  4. ^ a b Doyle, Philip W., Beef Cattle Yards, NSW Dept. of Agriculture, 1979
  5. ^ CHUTES and ACCESSORIES Retrieved on 16 April 2009
  6. ^ Conveyor Restrainer Retrieved on 4 September 2008
  7. ^ Beattie, William A. (1990). Beef Cattle Breeding & Management. Popular Books, Frenchs Forest. ISBN 0-7301-0040-5.  
  8. ^ The "Livestock Controller" crush, designed to prevent kicking
  9. ^ PMID 18564258
  10. ^ PMID 11994846
  11. ^ PMID 17078809
  12. ^ Squeeze chutes Retrieved on 12 November 2008
  13. ^ Warwick Cattle Crush Retrieved on 12 November 2008

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