Rawhide Portable Corrals: A Long-standing History of Helping the Industry

Published on Mon, 06/28/2021 - 12:49pm

Rawhide Portable Corrals: A Long-standing History of Helping the Industry.

 By Maura Keller.

 Few words captivate the agriculture and cattle industry more than the word ‘change.’ Anyone with even a casual understanding of the technology and equipment marketplace within this sector recognizes that change is constantly afoot. And for the past 19 years, Rawhide Portable Corrals has embraced technological innovations and equipment advancements to stay ahead of the game.

It was in 2002 that John McDonald initially developed the first portable hydraulic corral on wheels with multiple pens and 200-head capacity. And although McDonald’s technological innovation received immediate accolades and a long-lasting consumer base, it didn’t prevent McDonald from continually seeking to modify, improve and advance his original design to meet the evolving needs of cattle ranchers and producers. The subsequent enhancements of the original design of the Rawhide Portable Corral have resulted in multiple corral options and additional product features that end users have come to depend upon.   

“When I first invented the Rawhide, it was out of necessity,” says John McDonald. “I was doing some things with livestock in isolated pastures and we were set up like most people—namely with portable panels. My initial objective was just to be able to set something up that was not labor involved or labor intensive and to catch whatever I needed to and go on with my day.”
At the time that McDonald had the initial idea for his portable hydraulic corral, there was only one similar product on the market, and it was a product that McDonald didn’t even know existed until he was going forward with his product vision and had to explore the patent issues he faced.

“I learned all I could about the other patent,” McDonald says. “So I knew I was in a good place once I started moving forward with my product idea. I accomplished what I wanted and designed something that would work as a trailer, as well as a rack and had the panels needed to set up a corral.”

Through the years McDonald has gleaned information from end users and from customers, as well as from the questions he received at various farm shows he attended. Embracing these questions and evaluating the information and feedback he received has resulted in a continuous improvement process that has produced a refined product that truly stands out from the crowd.

“In the last 19 years, that’s what I’ve focused on—continually improving upon my original product idea,” McDonald says.

Today, Rawhide Portable Corral customers can choose from a series of different models. The Rawhide Original features two sizes, (the standard which is ideal for 40 to 50 cow/calf pairs and the large version for 80 to 100 cow/calf pairs) and is a basic catch-pen model. This system still boasts fast, 10-minute labor—free set ups, a hydraulic jack, self-contained power unit and battery with a solar panel, and the ability for the entire system to be driven through with a bale or cube feeder.

Because continuous improvement is at the forefront of McDonald’s vision for his product line, the company also offers the advanced Rawhide Processor model, which has become the most popular corral that Rawhide makes. It comes in multiple sizes as well as optional features to accommodate a wide range of corral needs. These advancements to the corral include a head gate, hydraulic adjustable alley, and loading chute.

“Initially when I started, my goal was to help the guy who had a 150 to 200 head turned out but there were limitations in terms of size and what you could haul safely,” McDonald says. “As I progressed I figured out new and different ways to put more equipment on my product and to appeal to some of those guys who had 300 to 400 head.”
The popularity of McDonald’s hydraulic portable corral has continued to grow, allowing the company to meet the needs of producers far and wide, including across the entire U.S. as well as Canada and even overseas.

“One of the key reasons our product stands out in the minds of customers is that there are so many possibilities, there are so many different things you can do with this one unit,” McDonald says. “Our products simply have more options than any of the other corrals out there. When you use things such as winches and jacks, those elements are very labor intensive. I stay away from that with our hydraulic features. We’ve been ‘through the mill’ during the last 19 years and have learned the vital importance of having consistency and durability there every time the product is used. And it can be used by anyone. We have a customer who is in their 70s, who sets it up by himself and is ready to catch cattle.”

In addition to enhancing the mechanization of the Rawhide Portable Corral over the years, McDonald has also paid close attention to the longevity and durability of the materials being used.

When he first began developing his portable corral product, McDonald was orchestrating the equipment set ups for television bull riding across the country. He would set the equipment on free standing dirt within sports arenas. And as he learned how to set the equipment up and ensure it was strong enough to handle all the bulls that would be coming into the arenas. He became aware of the differences in the types of equipment being used, specifically noticing that the best equipment was built in a way that it added strength to the overall set up.

“I learned through the years that the 14-gauge material that the panels are made entirely of could take the activity of the moving cattle,” McDonald said. “With that in mind, we have upgraded our products to 13-gauge to make them even stronger.”

It's not surprising that after 19 years of supplying producers when an exceptional hydraulic system that cuts out the labor typically required with conventional corral systems, Rawhide has received accolades aplenty from customers throughout the country.

“When I began selling this product after having worked to develop something that would enhance people’s operations, I was always concerned with how it was meeting the customers’ needs, rather than if I was making money at it,” McDonald says. “I would really listen to the customers and design, refine and build accordingly. And now here we are 19 years later and we continue to take care of our customers by offering great products and a level of customer service that shows we care.”

As a result, the Rawhide team receives phone calls frequently from people wanting to thank them because they simply wouldn’t know what they would do without their specific Rawhide product.

“I just received a call the other day from a customer who bought a corral several years ago and has run thousands of head of cattle through it. He was calling to order another one as he simply didn’t know what he would have done without it for all these years,” says John’s wife Mary McDonald, who helps run the company and works closely with customers. “Our customers’ testimonies are our best sales pitch. I love when I can refer a potential customer from any part of the country to another current customer in their area and they can go and take a look at the product, visit with them and learn how they use it. That’s the best thing you can do: Having a current customer talk about how much they like the product.”

To help producers determine and identify the best Rawhide Portable Corral that will fit their needs, the Rawhide team works closely with each customer to learn about their particular ranching or farming situation. “We work with them to determine the best size they need,” John McDonald says. “As far as how they need to use it, we have customers who are interested in using our corrals to sort, load and take home. And then we have customers who want to use the corral to pre-wean, vaccinate and castrate, and we can help them learn the best way to utilize our system for their needs.”

Customers can choose to have permanent sheeted alleys as part of the system. And then they can also select other options such as the loading chute, head gate or the hydraulic adjustable alley on the corral.

“Since I started this company 19 years ago I have changed things so much,” McDonald says. “Now we are at the point where we can offer options that the customer can choose from, making it a more versatile unit. But at the core of our product, I simply want to make sure it meets their essential needs.”

Although it’s been a long journey for the McDonalds seeing John’s vision come to life in such prominent ways throughout the industry, one thing’s for sure: Both John and Mary enjoy seeing the pleasure that people have with the product that John has worked diligently to design.

“I completely changed the cattle industry with my invention,” McDonald says. “Even though there was a corral on the market prior to mine, I looked at things differently. I recognized the need for multiple pens so producers can sort the cattle and then I got to the point and made it where you can work cattle. The enjoyment we have is knowing that we have made a significant impact on the industry. I just wanted to create something that was useful and helpful to people and that’s what we’ve done.”