Sheep, Sheep Handling
20 years of using Racewell Sheep Handlers
Written by Aimee Johnston
Sheep, Sheep Handling
Written by Aimee Johnston
Sheep farmer Tom Bull from Holbrook, NSW knows a bit about handling high-muscle sheep. Tom’s business, LAMBPRO is a prime lamb seed stock operation focusing on producing maternal and terminal seed stock. As a result of this strategy, Tom has very strong, high-muscle sheep and that’s why he invested in a Racewell Sheep Handler 20 years ago to make handling them easier.
Tom aims to increase kilograms per hectare and dollars per kilogram and multiply using artificial insemination, embryo transfer and natural mating. His farm at Holbrook has a total area of 4500 acres where he runs about 11,000 fully recorded ewes, a few cows and a bit of cropping as well.
“We’ve had Te Pari Racewell Sheep Handler for nearly 20 years now. We’ve got some of the older models and have upgraded over time. As we’ve selected sheep for muscle, they’ve got a lot stronger, particularly in some of our terminal breeds with the short muscle fibre increase they’re harder to handle, you put our ewes in a race now and try to drench them, they get their head to the bottom and they’re very hard to get up. The Racewells have done a pretty good job at being able to contain them (the sheep) and making it a pretty simple job.” Said Tom.
Tom uses RFID tags to record breeding values and animal data. Scanning and recording ear tags is made easy with the Racewell system as the integrated scanner in the handler reads the tags and then he can see all the information on the weigh scale screen for each animal. He can then weigh them, record weight gains and sort each animal into different groups for mating.
“We’ve had very few issues with the Racewells, we can get them serviced, we have someone come here once or twice a year to service them or as needed and that’s a big thing for us to be able to maintain them. We have very little downtime; they seem to work pretty well and that’s over 4 machines that handle a lot of sheep on a weekly basis. We crutch in it, give vaccines in it, do a lot of our recording, and a lot of joining, we single side join 11,000 ewes, so they’re often going through there.” Said Tom.
With a Racewell Sheep Handler, you can automatically or manually catch sheep in the handler and it will hold them securely while you do whatever needs to be done. The automatic catch system is operated by sensors on the side of the clamp. The sensors can be adjusted to catch sheep in different positions; catch further back in the clamp for crutching or further forward in the clamp for drenching.
The latest Racewell Sheep Handlers have 4 different operating modes to control the gates and clamp and are designed to maximise throughput for different jobs. The Racewells also come with a remote control so that you can move away from the handler to help get the next mob in the race or go and get supplies while still having control of the machine with the push of a button.
“We find they (the sheep) run pretty well into the machines; we’ve got pretty good force pens. Our sheep are pretty bare so we don’t need to tip them on their side to crutch, we can do a basically glorified buttonhole just standing up and that works pretty well.” Said Tom.
Having a good quality sheep handler has helped make Tom’s job easier and also helped him to retain staff over the years. The ease of using the Racewell Handler means that the labour Tom has doesn’t need to be very high skilled or very strong to handle his big, high-muscle sheep. Pretty much anyone can do the job because the Racewell catches and holds the sheep and takes all the hard physical work out of it.
“One of the biggest things with sheep is if people really dread a job they’re likely to put it off, and you know drenching high muscled sheep in a drenching race, yes you can do it but all of a sudden if you’ve got to do 10s of thousands it becomes a pretty hard job and drenching huge amounts of ewes in a drenching race is a highly skilled job so the sheep handler is allowing us to be able to change the labour that we use.” Said Tom.
Racewell Sheep Handlers are made in New Zealand by Te Pari Products. Racewell Sheep Handlers are a top-of-the-line product and truly built to last as you can see from Tom’s 20-year-old machine that is still in use today. Te Pari’s Australian operation is based in Epping, Victoria where they stock a range of machines and parts. They have a great team of experienced staff that go all over the country to sell, deliver, commission and service Racewell equipment and also the range of Te Pari Cattle Handling Equipment.
“I think having a good sheep handler is becoming more and more important for a modern sheep business. I think just having technology that works and works every day is really important and certainly, Te Pari has done a pretty good job of doing that for us.” Said Tom.