Auto Drafting, Sheep

What is the best Auto Drafting system for sheep?

What is the best Auto Drafting system for sheep?

If you’re thinking about getting an Auto Drafter for your sheep, take a look at these points to ensure you get the best system for your operation.

Is the Auto Drafter heavy-duty and designed to last?

An Auto Drafter for Sheep needs to be heavy-duty. It’s going to be a significant investment, so you want to make sure whatever machine you choose is going to last, be able to handle the hits from big sheep and not fall to bits after 1 or 2 seasons.

Take a look at the frame, is it made from steel? Is it hot dip galvanised to prevent corrosion? Beware of products that have lots of plastic parts especially if they are screwed together as they are prone to falling out over time with the constant shaking caused during use. This kind of damage is common in some models, and it usually requires a full panel replacement which is expensive.

Racewell Auto Drafters have a hot dip galvanised steel frame. It is a very strong and industry-proven design that’s often chosen by large finishing farms that are weighing and drafting thousands of sheep per week. The steel frame has a 10-year galvanising warranty. The plastic covers are not structural, but they do help reduce the noise of the air rams and gates – this makes the Racewell a very quiet machine when operating.

racewell auto drafter burrawang action 14

Weighing accuracy and easy site positioning

Accuracy when weighing and drafting your sheep is obviously very important and many things can affect a machines accuracy such as design, ground conditions and load bar positioning. It’s a good idea to research the options available and talk to other farmers who have used the machines to make sure you end up with the best option for your farm.

Avoid drafters have the load bars underneath the weigh crate. Load bars on the ground are prone to accuracy issues due to uneven ground or with dirt building up around the parts. Some machines have a load cell in each corner of the machine, which need to be very level to ensure accurate weights.

The Racewell Auto Drafter has a strong full steel frame so you can dump it down on uneven ground or just on a gravel pad and start weighing. The weigh crate is independent to the frame so it will read accurate weights without having to be on level ground.

Another feature of Racewell Auto Drafters is the entry gate is part of the main frame – not the weigh crate – so the sheep outside can push on the frame (as they often will) and it won’t affect the weight of the sheep inside. The weigh crate inside is suspended from two loadcells up in the top, this means there’s no load bars on the ground sitting in the mud or on uneven gravel and there’s also no issues with getting cables chewed because they’ve under the plastic covers.

racewell auto drafter intergrated load cells

Sheep Drafter entry gate design for the best flow

There are various different entry gate designs available on sheep auto drafters. Some are designed for the gate to close when there’s weight on the unit, so as soon as you put some weight on the loadcells the entry gate closes. The problem with this design is if a sheep puts a foot in and then hesitates the gates will shut on it. This can cause delays in the flow of sheep coming through and may need the operator to manually open the gate and push the sheep in.

On some other Auto Drafters, the entry gate is controlled by a “bump setting”. So as the sheep walk into the drafter, they bump the gate, and this activates the door to close. These entry gates sit partially in from the frame so can be a visual barrier that causes some sheep to hesitate. The gates also have to be preset to suit the width of the animals so running mix sized mobs can be an issue, but overall, this system works quite well.

Racewell Auto Drafters have patented sensors on the sides of the machines that control the closing of the entry gate. These sensors are adjustable so you can set it to close sooner or later after the sheep enter the drafter, which is good if you have either fast or slow flowing sheep. The gate won’t close as soon as a sheep puts it foot on the floor inside, it has to pass the sensors before the gate is triggered. And when the gate does shut it has to be 100% shut before the scale locks onto the weight, if it’s not completely shut then the gate will open and close until the sheep has moved right inside or backed out and cleared the sensors. This entry gate system is very effective and ensures minimal operator input is required.

racewell auto drafter eye sensors

Does it have easy to use controls?

The control buttons on an auto drafter need to be easy to use. You want to be able to show new staff how to use it quickly and easily. It’s great if the machine has a remote control that can be used from the back of the race. Then drafting sheep can be a 1-person job as they can load the race and still have control over the machine with the remote if necessary. It’s also important that there are control buttons on the actual machine so that if you lose the remote control or it has flat batteries then you can still operate the machine.

Racewell Auto Drafters have control buttons on top of the machine (which can be used from either side) to control draft gates, entry and exit gate. There is also a remote control which makes it easy to operate all functions from the back of the race.

racewell auto drafter dual controls_1

What is the fastest Auto Drafter for Sheep?

The Racewell Auto Drafter is the fastest sheep auto drafter on the market. Comprehensive testing to compare various brands, has consistently shown that the Racewell Auto Drafter reigns supreme. There are however, many things can affect the speed of an auto drafter such as flow, noise, entry height and the scale system you choose.

The flow of sheep coming into your auto drafter is the biggest factor that affects how fast you can process your sheep. The other things that affect the flow of sheep are noise, visibility, entry height and familiarity.

If your auto drafter is noisy the sheep will be hesitant to go into it, especially if it is their first time through. Most auto drafters are powered by electricity and compressed air so it’s important to position your air compressor as far away from the auto drafter as possible.

If a sheep cannot see a way through the auto drafter, then this is also very likely to cause them to hesitate. It is preferable to have entry and exit gates on your drafter that can be seen through. You also want to position your drafter so that it’s pointing outside into a pen in the light, not into anywhere that looks dark.

The entry height into an auto drafter is another thing that can affect the flow of sheep. If it is a significant step up for the sheep, it can cause them to hesitate. Most people find that once a mob of sheep have been through an auto drafter a couple of times they will start flowing faster as they become more used to it and are more comfortable.

Racewell Auto Drafters are designed to be light on the inside with steel bar entry and exit gates that the sheep can easily see through. The top of the drafter is also partially open to give operator access to the sheep and let light in. The plastic covers on Racewell Auto Drafters help reduce noise caused by the air rams and the rubber floor mats reduce the noise of sheep running through.

Some scale indicators need to be back at zero before they will reset and be ready for the next sheep to enter. This makes weighing slower due to a bigger delay required in between sheep in the weigh crate. Other scale indicators such as most Te Pari and Gallagher scales can be set to reset and be ready for the next sheep at a specified reduction in weight eg. 50%. This means that the scale can reset quicker, and the next sheep can be let in and weighed faster. The difference is only a split second per sheep but over a mob of 1000 it all adds up. The faster you can weigh and draft your sheep the more time left in the day for other tasks or an early finish.

Is it easy to transport?

An easy to transport auto drafter is a great option for farmers who use more than one set of sheep yards. There are various different designs available to choose from.

Some models are light weight enough that they can be lifted with 2 people for repositioning or lifting onto a trailer. Unfortunately the light weight models are not very robush and often get damaged during transport. They need to be lifted and any dragging on the ground can cause damage to the loadcells underneath.

All auto drafters are reasonably heavy for manual lifting especially if you want to get it up onto a trailer to move to another set of yards. They can also be lifted by forklift, but great care needs to be taken to ensure parts are not damaged.

prattley auto drafter for sheep

Some models come with an optional trailer to make the auto drafter transportable. Some trailers are designed for on farm, short distance use only while others are more robust and can be road registered if required.

Racewell Auto Drafters have a very robust frame and are easy to position in your yards and transport. They weigh approx. 150kg but can be pushed/dragged short distances in the yards for easy positioning. There’s no risk of damaging anything on the bottom since the loadcells are up at the top of the weigh crate instead of underneath. They also have lifting hooks in the top four corners of the machine so you can put rope through these and lift the machine up with your tractor or forklift.

There is also an easy-to-use trailer system is available for Racewell Auto Drafters that features a manual winch for lifting and lowering the machine. It is a well-balanced design that allows one person to move it when on wheels which is great for positioning in the yards.

The trailer also has a heavy duty 75x50mm RHS steel chassis that’s hot dip galvanised with road ready wheels, tyres and mud guards. It is suitable for long distance towing and can be road registered if required.

racewell auto drafter trailer system

Do you need an EID Tag Reader on your Auto Drafter?

If you use EID/RFID tags in your sheep, then pay attention to the tag readers available for different auto drafter models. Some Auto Drafters just use a bolt on EID tag reader that is made to fit a wide variety of machines. These are just fitted to one side of the machine which can mean tags on the opposite side of the sheep can get missed.

Racewell Auto Drafters have a built-in EID reader designed for optimal reading. It's a stainless-steel loop encircling the weigh crate, accurately reading ear tags regardless of the sheep's head position or tag placement. The compact and unobtrusive design is an optional upgrade on all Racewell Auto Drafters.

racewell auto drafter eid tag reader

The Top Choice

In conclusion, when considering an Auto Drafter for sheep, the Racewell system emerges as a top choice. Its robust, galvanized steel frame guarantees durability, supported by a 10-year warranty. With accurate weighing through innovative load cell placement and adjustable entry gate sensors, the Racewell ensures precision. The design promotes sheep flow, reducing delays. The machine's accessibility, easy-to-use controls, and transportability enhance usability. Racewell Auto Drafters excell in durability, accuracy, efficiency, and convenience for modern sheep farming operations.


Watch the video testimonial below from Malcolm Brady in Australia.