Calf News- February 2002
Going Home in Style
By Betty Jo Gigot Associated Editor
Larry Bilberry, Garden City Feed Yard manager, can't quit talking about his new "go-home" truck. "What this really is, is the answer to my worst nightmare," Bilberry said. "I had this dream about returning cattle from the sick pen and, would you believe, the very next morning Sandie Bonsall came into the office to see me." "I was talking to Larry about my helicopter lessons," Bonsall said, "and he asked me why I didn't fly his go-home cattle back to the pen for him." The rest is history. Three years, multiple changes and a new company later, Bilberry proudly shows off the newly-patented Am Agra Animal Ambulance.
A Very Simple Concept
What Bilberry likes best about his new equipment is that setting it up
is so simple. In the older part of Garden City Feed Yard all it took was
a portable chute and a couple of panels. The truck drives up to the chute
and the take home cattle load right into the truck for their trip back
to their home pen. When the new construction was being done for the expansion
of Garden City Feed Yard from 30,000-head to 80,000-head capacity, Bilberry
used his "thinkology" and had a chute designed so that can be loaded both
"I love horses and the people who ride them," Bilberry said. "But taking home cattle from the sick pen is an accident waiting to happen." Bilberry and his crew have gone 1,500 days without an accident on the yard and part of that he attributed to his new ambulance, which is mounted on an old feed truck. As Bonsall put it, "The last place we need a rodeo is in the feedyard."
"This way one guy takes the place of four guys on horseback and the cattle are better off," Bilberry said. "Some places on this yard they would have to walk three miles to get back to their home pen. When you take them back by horseback they run into fences, so the ambulance saves on repairs and I feel their antibiotics have a chance to work better since they rest on the way home."
The hospital crew puts together a delivery sheet and a route sheet that shows the shortest way to deliver the cattle back. At Garden City Feed Yard that can be as many as 90 cattle everyday.
Bilberry also noted that the cattle settle down on the truck on the way to the pen and, as the truck drives up to the pen, all of the other cattle stop and watch the truck and really don't even pay attention to the animal getting off. The animal normally walks off, walks to the back of the pen and then turns and watches the truck drive off. Bilberry knows that his buller rate is down and also his retreat rate because of less stress on the return.
An Idea Whose Time Had Come
Bonsall, a native of the Nebraska Sandhills, learned to operate farm machinery at an early age.
"My job experiences ranged from construction with cranes, loaders, dozers and eighteen wheelers to milking cows, calving out heifers, dragging calves to the fire, and being a state brand inspector? I observed livestock movement in many different sale barn designs and gathered some great ideas. I guess this idea for a unique piece of equipment that can handle livestock had to be given to someone with a lifetime of experiences with this type of background. I know this is an odd combination but I am a cowboy who likes using a rope as well as a backhoe."
The actual construction of the ambulance is done by a contractor who works with Bonsall, cutting out middle management for the company. Bonsall proudly stated, "We are fortunate to be associated with people who are imaginative, multi-talented with electronics and hydraulics, and who are skilled fabricators."
Built with solid sides to keep the cattle calm, the ambulance has rubber flooring for non-slip footing. The hydraulic system runs on toggle switches and is operated away from the animals so there is no interaction between the livestock and the people. The "take home" cattle are kept separate by utilizing five compartments so no sorts are necessary when they arrive at their home pen.
Muriel Bonsall, Sandie's wife, is really excited about his new venture. She states, "Sandie has spent the past three years working on the patents for the product and has earned a Masters degree from the "School of Hard Knocks" through this experience." "Sandie is great with new ideas"," Muriel said. "And he always finishes what he starts." Like Bilberry, other users have nice things to say about their new go-home unit. Ran Smith, DVM and feedyard owner, said, "When was the last time you walked in the damp and deep to the hospital with pneumonia and then the doctor made you walk home in the dry and dusty at the same time you were trying to recover?" Ken Winter said," I can't believe how efficient this product has made us!" And Sandie Bonsall thinks his new product will, "make my vo-ag teacher proud." For information on Am Agra's Animal Ambulance, log onto www.amagra.com.