Sheep, Sheep Handling

Manual Sheep Handler making sheep work easier in California

Written by Aimee Johnston

Manual Sheep Handler making sheep work easier in California

Martin Pozzi and his family farm sheep at Preston Point in Tomales Bay, California. The Pozzi family have been farming here since the late 1800’s and they’re one of the few sheep operations left in the county. The area has been tough for sheep farming over the years and the Pozzi’s have had to be vigilant on predator control to protect their flock.

Sheep handling is hard work and Martin, and his family were looking for some way to make their job easier, that’s when they discovered Racewell Sheep Handlers.   

Pictured above is Martin and his wife Sally with their Racewell JR Sheep Handler which is the entry-level model with manual push button controls. There are a range of optional upgrades you can choose for the Racewell JR such as side tilt, 3-way sorting gates, load bars and an EID reader. It is a very affordable sheep handler that is ideal for people that don’t need any of the automated functions or remote control that comes with the more expensive models.

“We started looking for something mainly just on videos and things to try to make our life easier. Instead of handling every ewe by hand, that was the big thing to try to make it easier on us and this has done that."

"We use this machine mainly for drenching and tagging and bagging as well as for pulling ewes and sorting ewes. With the gates on the end, we’ll sort our bucks out and things like that, we run all the sheep through one time, and we can sort them 3 ways so that way we’re not running sheep through again if it’s just taking out 5 or 10 bucks and a ewe with bad foot or something like that then we can just separate them right here without running them through again.” Said Martin.

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Sheep Handler with simple manual controls

Racewell JR Sheep Handlers are manually controlled with the buttons on the side of the handler. They have many design features to encourage sheep to flow into the machine such as the lead-up alley, clear line of sight through the machine, rubber floor for quiet operation and the auto close entry gate.

The lead-up alley has backing hooks that prevent sheep from backing up once they’re in the lead-up. The JR model has a fixed-width lead-up alley but on the other models, the width is adjustable which is great if you’re handling a lot of lambs because you can narrow the lead-up to prevent them from turning around as they approach the machine.

The auto-close entry gate is in-between the lead-up alley and the clamp area of the machine. It can be set to stay open, auto close or closed. The open setting is great for drenching because the sheep can just pile up one behind the other and it’s fast and easy for you to reach them. The auto-close setting makes the gate close at the same time as the clamp. This option is great if you’re weighing as it prevents the sheep in the lead-up from getting onto the area where the load bars are under the clamp. The closed setting is great if you want to let a sheep out but not let the next sheep in yet for any reason.

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“When we’re tagging or anything the sheep are just non-stop going through, we won’t shut off our shearing machine because we can just keep them going. It’s amazing how quick the catch gate catches them. I did not think it’d catch them this quick.

On the lead-up alley when they first come in there are hooks there to keep the sheep from backing up. At the first catch gate, you can either leave it open to run sheep straight through or when we’re tagging, we’ll set the middle gate so that it will shut automatically when you clamp a sheep so that way the next sheep is not pushing the sheep in the clamp. These sheep run through here so fast, they’re one behind the other so that middle gate is really important so when you clamp a sheep that sheep is held right there until you're done with the sheep and you let it go.” Said Martin.

Side tilt makes it easier to dag and check feet

Martin chose to get side tilt on his Racewell so that it would be easier to dag and check feet. With the side tilt on a Racewell Manual Sheep Handler, you have proportional control – meaning you can stop the tilt at any point, and it doesn’t have to sit completely horizontal. Many people find that a sheep is more relaxed at around a 45-degree angle instead of being right on its side at 90 degrees. Proportional tilt is also great for safety because it gives you control to stop at any point if you need to.

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“A lot of the time we won’t flip the sheep all the way over, we’ll flip it over ¾ and that seems to work really good for dagging. Once this thing clamps a ewe, and our ewes are pretty big but once they clamp the ewe the ewes aren’t going anywhere and they don’t seem to kick much. Whatever this rubber is what's inside this thing it just seems to hold the sheep right there together.

I’m amazed at how quick this clamps them, and yet it seems so gentle, whether we’re catching a 60lbs lamb or a 140lbs ewe it just seems to catch them tremendously good.

The other thing I will say about this is I’m embarrassed that this sits outside, we’re on the coast where everything here rusts like crazy and this machine’s been here for 2 years and it still looks like the day we got it. The galvanising and everything that’s on this machine is incredible there’s no one thing here that even shows a spec of rust yet and this country rusts really bad.” Said Martin.

Racewell Sheep Handlers are made with high-quality Australian steel that is fully hot dip galvanised after welding, so the galvanising covers all surfaces of the steel inside and out which gives it the best protection against corrosion.

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“For sure our sheep are in better condition because of this unit and we’re in better condition because of this unit. The support has been very very good from the manufacturer and the rep that’s in Minnesota, he’s been more than willing to help us, and he came out here and helped us hook this up and that part of it has been super good, there’s been no issues at all.

I wish I had bought this thing years ago because it just works so good. I was debating on getting rid of our sheep because of all sorts of different things but now that we’ve invested in this unit here which has made our life so much easier when we’re working sheep that I hope to stay in the sheep industry for many more years now and hopefully our kids will also.” Said Martin.

Watch the full video from Martin