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Simple Bud Box adds ease to cattle handling

Famed cattle handler Bud Williams left a legacy with a design that’s been copied across the world


I always marvel at farmer innovations and the fact some people continue the search for “a better mousetrap” even as you might say they are getting “long in the tooth.”

The late Bud Williams was an exemplary lifelong learner, fine-tuning ways to handle livestock throughout his life and never passing up the opportunity to share his passion with others.

Williams began teaching his Low Stress Livestock Handling courses at the age of 57, influencing the livestock handling practices of hundreds of farmers and ranchers over the years. I never took any of his courses but always enjoy reading how we as ranchers can so easily reduce the stress associated with handling cattle, with that being a mutual benefit for both man and beast.

We are building some cattle yards here in Australia and this got me introduced to Bud Williams’s low-stress livestock handling concepts in an unusual way. I could apply his principles thousands of miles from our summertime ranch up in Rocky Mountain House, Alta. and from where Bud and his wife Eunice headquartered in the 90s, at Vee Tee Feeders, Lloydminister, Alta.

Looked at our options

We began considering options for cattle yards, looking at whether to build out of post and rail or use steel panels. One of the lines of steel equipment I came across here in Australia was the Arrow Farm Quip with its impressive layout of different cattle yard designs. After some research I found this equipment is also sold in North America with its Norton predecessor actually originating in Canada.

While perusing the designs I came across their Beef Buddy, using a 12- to 14-foot laneway and gates that block the lane near an alley leading to a chute for processing or loading out. While they market it as a Beef Buddy it soon became obvious that it is what many of the homemade systems called a Bud Box, named in honour of Bud Williams, who came up with the design. Bud was just 76 when he got the idea of what could also be called a rectangular crowding tub and a revolutionary design!

A gate is opened on one end of the Bud Box allowing cattle in this case to head for the loading ramp.
A gate is opened on one end of the Bud Box allowing cattle in this case to head for the loading ramp. photo: Kim Nielsen

The Bud Box is not only extremely effective but it is also very cost effective compared to circular tubs, curved alleys or funnel alleys. Keeping it simple, which was Bud’s overall philosophy, it plays on the cattle’s psychology of wanting to circle when they are in a confined space and attempt to head back where they came from.

This is where the lane width is important and also the length of the lane ahead of the gate closing the lane off. By designing the system so the lane ends in the Bud Box, the cattle will, soon after entering it, realize they can’t go on and then automatically circle. In the meantime the handler has closed the gate across the lane and opened the entrance leading up to the chute or the loading ramp.

Putting it to the test

While we didn’t go with Arrow Quip, we ended up doing it all in steel through another supplier. The portable panels here in Australia are built very tough and are by far a cheaper solution to treated posts and planks. The other big plus is that you can add and change the yard system with ease. We had two 14-foot frames custom made to fit the lane gates to give them full support and allow easy closing with quiet slam latches.

We put the Bud Box to its inaugural test recently as we shipped our heifers to market. Bud’s design suggests the alley gate must be solid and we did that with some dark shade cloth zip tied on the back side of the gate. By blocking the cattle’s view of the alley as they circle back and with the entrance to the chute or ramp immediately next to it they naturally go into it.

There are numerous Bud Box YouTube videos uploaded by people from across the world showcasing with pride what Bud Williams envisioned and left as a legacy for everyone’s enjoyment — man as well as beast. Such a simple concept working with the cattle not against them. Thanks Mr. Williams.

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