“It’ll pay for itself in the 1st year!”

“It’s so easy to use I can even get the kids to work with it” says Dave Dalziel owner of Manawa Station deep in the heart of Wairarapa.

On a late summer’s morning I set off from Masterton to meet Dave at Manawa Station. Once past the town, the poplars turning yellow in the drought reminded me of my own home province of North Canterbury, where two years of dry has parched the landscape. The vista from car window was all too familiar, lack of stock and feed. On the radio Jamie McKay’s Farming Show was talking with Wairarapa’s Sir Brian Lahore, who coincidentally was also talking about the lack of stock and feed on the East Coast of both islands.

Inland from the nearby tiny hamlet of Tinui lies the 1750 ha Manawa station run by the 4th generation of the Dalziel family.

Running 5000 ewes and their replacements as well as several mobs of breeding and store stock cattle, Manawa is typical of type of sheep and beef stations of East Coast farming operations. With some river flats, rolling country and steep hills, the station has just over 1000effective ha.

Dave runs Manawa with just a single Shepard since 2001. He, like most others in the farming community is constantly seeking better and more efficient ways to streamline his business, while keeping a lid on costs.

I’d been invited to Manawa to chat with Dave about their Racewell Sheep Handler supplied and marketed by Oamaru Company Te Pari Products.

Jeremy Blampied, their Marketing Director was keen for me to find out how the handler was working and its importance to Manawa. He also was interested to know what they would do without it.

I arrived shortly before Dave, at the station’s woolshed and yards and immediately saw the Racewell 3 way auto drafter in the only covered area of the neatly cobble stoned yards. What was also immediately obvious was the condition of the unit. It had clearly seen many years of use. What I also saw was a brand new bright blue Te Pari iS Weight Scale [as seen in the photo]

As I was looking the set up over I decided to ask Dave’s reasons for the obvious upgrade. He rocked up to the yards a few minutes after me, with three dogs aboard his covered ATV.

Along with all farmers I have met, he greeted me with a wide grin and a firm handshake, briefly apologising for not being there when I arrived. Down to business with a “How long will this take? And what do we need to do?” I said it would be best if we got some stock in the race and then ran them through the unit as he would normally do when using it. He quickly put some sheep in the yards, running the rams as they turned out to be, straight up into the Racewell, which coped easily with their size. The height above ground was ideal as he put it for working on all classes of sheep and the adjustable sides held the rams firmly without stressing them.

I asked about how he came to get the Racewell originally?

He said shortly after he took over the farm, his neighbour from Holmwood Station, Andy Tatham, suggested to him, he get a Racewell Sheep Handler. He said “ it would really reduce the workload in the yards, going on to claim “It’ll pay for itself in the 1st year!”

“Reluctantly I took his advice and 13 years ago I bought this” said Dave. Andy was quite right, it did save me its cost in labour alone, in the first year, but it was more than that it is so easy to use and always 100% accurate. I can be sure when drafting for weight, age, sex, anything really, that the handler will give me accurate totals and have the right stock in the right pens. It saves time energy and stress and definitely money. We couldn’t operate the farm on the resources we have without it”

We can put up to 450 lambs through an hour that’s around 2000 in a day and it’s so easy I can bribe the kids to do it. That frees us up to concentrate on other tasks or to bring in the next mob”.

I ask Jeremy’s question “What would you do with out it?” Simple we couldn’t” he says matter of factly. “If it were broken I’d get Te Pari to repair or replace it straight away, this is as important as the dogs or the bank manager” he says with a smile.”

We’d only do half the stuff we do and that would be disastrous financially!”

“We use it for weighing mainly and it’s being used most weeks for something. For example through experience we know that the ewes have to reach 67 kgs. For every kg less it means a drop in lambing index of 2.9.

We love the flexibility. It’s great as we aim for growth rates of 159gms a day on the lambs, so we draft them into groups, using the Racewell to identify the lighter ones to ensure we get the numbers we need away to match our grass growth and season”

“We cull the ewes under 60kg and put out a terminal sire on the 5yos which we just use the drafter system to select. As you can see we have upgraded to the Te Pari iS weight scale so we can EID the sheep and we can transfer and use the same unit at the cattle yards” I know there’s a lot more we could do with the handler like crutching or dagging, but we’re happy with how it works for us”.

The Racewell Sheep Handler has given us no trouble since we’ve had it and I’m not inclined to replace it. I’m very pleased with its performance says Dave with a smile.

Ken Strugnell Ag Journalist