Sheep Handling

Saving time with a multi-purpose portable sheep handler

Images & Video by Corban Blampied

Saving time with a multi-purpose portable sheep handler

James Dempster runs a sheep and beef farm near Waikouaiti, East Otago with his wife, kids and parents. They run about 20,000 stock units, over about 4500ha.

The farm is spread over multiple properties in the area with the finishing block down at sea level and a hill country block that’s about 800m above sea level. So there’s a range of different growing conditions and challenges over the farm. The farm is mainly focused on finishing cattle and lambs.

“We were looking for a mobile sheep handling system for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, we’ve got several different sheep yard sites so we wanted something we could transport and do multiple functions at each of those sites.

Secondly, I had an injury about 3 years ago where I broke my back so I found some of the crutching and drenching in a race was more difficult, it put a bit of pressure on my lower back. We wanted something that would clamp the sheep and hold them so I can stand a bit more stationery and a bit more upright to do whatever we need to do.” Said James

james drenching sheep in racewell handler

James chose the Racewell HD4 Sheep Handler with T30 Scale System to make handling, weighing and drafting quick and easy. This machine works using optical sensors or ‘magic eyes’ to trigger the catching mechanism, which is an air-operated clamp. When the sheep enter the handler the animal is clamped and the air-operated entry gate closes behind them, preventing the next sheep from entering.

“It fits our requirements really well, we’ve been really, really pleased with how it’s gone. We’ve put a few thousands of sheep through from lambs, woolly lambs, shorn lambs and dagging ewes so it’s got a wide range of functions.

I like that we can do one pass, like today we were drenching smalls as they went through, taking off any bigs and we were crutching any works lambs as well so that whole process was done in one pass.” Said James

sheep drafting gate racewell handler

“The machine seems robust, it’s easy to set up and easy to break down to move to those different yard sites so yeah that’s a real big factor for us.

We use it for a range of functions but we’re mainly finishing lambs so it’s often weighing and when we’re weighing, we’re perhaps crutching too and most of the lambs here we just crutch ourselves over the machine.” Said James

James can set up the handler to automatically draft based on animal weight as well as being able to use the machine’s control buttons to manually draft specific animals if he wants to. After the animal has been handled and weighed, the machine opens a drafting gate and the sheep is released into a predetermined pen. The entire process is done in a matter of seconds, meaning minimal stress on both the operator and animal.

james sheep handler weigh scales

If James has some sheep that need drenching he just runs them through his Racewell Handler. This makes the job a lot faster and easier on his back. The animals are held safely in the machine so there’s no need to hold the sheep and have to walk through the race while drenching.

“It’s made things more efficient, it’s sped things up and time wise it’s more efficient for sure. We can get more done, more quickly and then move onto the next task.” Said James

The new Racewell Handler that James has features a backing hook on the race.  This holds the next sheep in place until the front one goes. This feature prevents sheep from backing out of the machine. The anti-backing flaps along the side hold them in place and the tapered sides of the machine help prevent them turning around. 

“The way that the gate works and the flow it seems to be pretty well designed. They hold and as the front one’s exiting the gate opens and they tend to follow on pretty well.” Said James

racewell sheep handler backing hook

“The access to animals is really good, so if you are vaccinating or drenching at the top you’ve got no obstruction so you can get into the animal nice and easy and if you’re crutching you can also get the hand piece in the back there quite easy. There’s not really any obstructions if they’re clamped in the right spot.”

james racewell sheep handler drenching 1000

"It’s been a great fit for us, it really did satisfy those 3 things that we were looking for;

  • We wanted something that was portable to use at our different yard sites
  • We wanted to make things more efficient so we have a bit more time to do other things on the farm
  • And we wanted to make it a bit easier on the body to handle the sheep" Said James.


Watch the video to see more!


racewell handlers mt linton news cta_2