Sheep, Sheep Handling
There are 700 ewes at Bankhead Enterprises farm as well as anywhere between 1500 to 2500 trade lambs at one time. Richard & William Brown – owners of Bankhead, have had a Romney stud for a number of years, but they’ve been cutting back from that in recent years to concentrate more on trading lambs. With trading lambs came more handling, weighing and drafting work as the numbers increased. The team at Bankhead wanted to be able to handle the sheep easier, faster, and not have to use extra staff, that’s why they decided to get a Racewell Sheep Handler.
“Getting all this set up is so that one man can do it all himself, and it just makes the job a lot easier. It flows really well, it’s a simple design as far as setting up from a farming point of view. It’s all about a: achieving the weight ranges and b: making it a one-man job so that’s what it does for us and that’s what we were after.” Said Aaron.
The sheep handler at Bankhead Enterprises is the Racewell HD4 with side tilt and the T30 Scale System. The system can automatically weigh and draft according to whatever weight groups you set up in the scale indicator. So, all Aaron needs to do is keep the sheep moving up the race and into the handler and it automatically catches each lamb, weighs it, releases it and opens the appropriate gate for the animal to exit from.
“The bigger prime lambs that are ready to go are a lot easier to handle through this, you know you don’t want to be dragging a 60kg male lamb across the board trying to dag it, so we do it in here and it’s quick and easy you know you don’t even get a sweat up dagging sort of thing.
Obviously, we just dirty/clean them first and then run them all through here just with the foot pedal and we have a little handy piece set up, you know just on your belt just so you can keep moving around and push sheep up as you go. It’s the fastest, easiest way to do it without any stress on yourself. I basically fill that pen up myself with a dog in behind, she just sits at the gate. I just open up the gate into the race and then just basically use the flag to just keep pushing them up and just bark the dog every now and again when you need to but once they get flowing and that and if they’ve got short wool they don’t stop, they keep moving and it just makes it nice and easy and it’s quick for the lambs. The idea of it is to get the sheep in and out of the yards as quick as you can, just so that they’re not hanging around.” Said Aaron.
Racewell Sheep Handlers are easy to use with an on-machine dashboard, handheld remote control and foot pedal. The remote control means you can control the machine from the back of the race, stop or release a sheep if you need to at any time. The foot pedal is great for when you’re dagging or drenching because your hands are busy and the being able to control the handler with your feet means you don’t have to put down your handpiece or dosing gun in between sheep.
“The remote is key really if your own because you’ll get the odd one that it’ll catch them early, might have a foot off or something so you can just, you can be 5 meters away and just release it, catch it again, it re-weighs it and you can move on so yeah it’s important to have the remote going definitely.
It is a reliable machine, there’s never any issues with it, you know it’s a solid built machine it works well definitely for what we want yeah. It’s what you need for trading sheep I think it’s a must yeah.” Said Aaron.
4 Operation Settings to suit different jobs
You can choose from 4 different operational settings on a Racewell Auto Sheep Handler:
Sheep is clamped and weighed. When the clamp is released the entry gate and backing hook are not opened to let the next animal in until the ‘blue’ eyes are clear.
Sheep is clamped and weighed. When clamp is released the entry gate and backing hook are immediately opened to let in the next animal. This is ideal when very fast weighing is required and where the sheep race flow is very good. This mode allows the waiting animal to immediately follow in behind the animal that is exiting the clamp, speeding up flow and throughput.
#3 CONTINUOUS FLOW
In this mode the entry gate is set to ‘Open’ and the ‘Manual’ operation is selected on the dashboard. This is ideal where only occasional animals are being dagged or drafted. The ‘Manual’ operation switch turns the Eye catch sensors off. The sheep can run through the handler and the clamp is only activated when the remote button or foot pedal is activated meaning that only sheep needing attention are clamped.
#4 FAST DRENCHING
In this mode the entry gate is set to ‘Open’. This allows the next sheep to be waiting immediately behind the animal being drenched and greatly speeds up overall throughput. The clamp and backing hook are automatically activated. This mode is not recommended for weighing as it is possible that two sheep could be on the weighing platform at the same time. Animals are released manually via dash or foot pedal for hands-free operation.
Weigh more often to monitor your lamb growth rates
Do you know your average lamb growth rate post-weaning? If so, how does your lamb growth measure up? Here’s a guideline of what is a good or poor growth rate for lambs as defined by Beef and Lamb NZ:
- Below 50g/day—poor growth, considerable improvement possible
- 50-100g/day—average, plenty of improvement possible
- 100-200g/day—above average, still room for improvement
- 200-400g/day—very good
- Above 400g/day—exceptional.
The key to monitoring lamb growth rates is regular weighing. Making your weighing system as accurate and time efficient as possible will help make this easier to do.