Sheep, Sheep Handling

Farming Alone on a Remote Island, with a Racewell JR

Farming Alone on a Remote Island, with a Racewell JR Sheep Handler

The island of Shapinsay covers just 29.5 square kilometres, much of which is used for farming.  It’s still the 8th largest island of the Orkney Islands, located off the northern coast of Scotland.  Yet there's no secondary school and getting to the mainland requires two ferries.  But what Shapinsay lacks in amenities, it makes up for in rich, fertile land suited for beef and lamb farming.  Agriculture provides work for the majority of the 307 residents. 

One of those residents is Shona Strange.  She farms alone, with 80 ewes needing tending to, a number Shona is growing and it’s the reason she selected a Te Pari Racewell JR Sheep Handler.  Shona knows the remote nature of the farm means going it alone and any growth in sheep numbers has to be sustainable for the sole farmer.  There’s no ready supply of help on an island facing population decline.

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“It’s important to have equipment I can manage, so I can handle my animals on my own,” says Shona, who is keen to highlight how the layout of the controls provides advantages over the old-fashioned style sheep handlers that have a manual squeeze activated by foot pedal.  The Racewell JR features a catch button by the squeeze and also at the entry to the machine.  If needed, Shona can “push on my own” and move the sheep into the catch area, pressing the catch button by the entrance without having to move forward.  Other sheep handlers require the farmer to race forward and activate the foot pedal, often when it’s too late and the sheep has made it through the squeeze. 

The anti-backing flaps have also proved a success.  These hold one animal in the lead-up race of the machine, ready for processing.  It’s a more efficient process and the anti-backing flaps are adjustable, with dual positions on each side, allowing the height of the catch to change to suit the size of the animal.

None of this is by accident.  The Racewell JR Sheep Handler has been designed to take the hard work out of sheep handling.  The location and simplicity of the controls means the sole farmer can quickly and efficiently carry out tasks without the need for assistance, and without placing themselves or their animals at risk of harm.  That’s one of the key advantages for Shona, who faced issues with her old system.

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“With the old system I had, I used to have to turn them (the sheep) upside down and I didn’t like them being upside down,” explains Shona.  “They used to get caught in the metal of the actual machine whereas this protects them, with rubber at the sides where it clamps them.  It’s much better and kinder.”

Once the animal is in the clamp and tilted 90 degrees onto its side, the access flaps can be individually opened.  One panel is for access to the head end of the animal, and the other to access the rear.  “With the Racewell I can do everything I need to do with the sheep.  I can drench, I can worm, I can crutch, I can check their feet, I can check their teeth, I can check their udders,” says Shona.  “I can pretty well do everything in comfort and know the sheep is as comfortable as it’s ever going to be.”

Being physically comfortable on the job is a big deal in Shapinsay too.  Any injury generally means a trip to the mainland.  That’s a time-consuming process, so as the Te Pari Racewell removes the need to bend over and use force to restrain the animal, it also reduces potential costly downtime. 

Going back to the tilt on Shona’s Racewell, it’s important to note the tilt is proportional and if you only need to take the sheep off its feet to stop kicking, you can.  Everything is set up so you can handle Sheep on your terms.  For Shona, it works: “As a sole operator, I would highly recommend this.  To me, it’s the thing to go for”.

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When Shona decided to go for it, she added optional extras to her Racewell, including the side tilt and access flaps.  These are not standard features of the base model Te Pari Racewell JR Sheep Handler, which is designed as an entry-level sheep handler.  Shona could have also added other optional extras including weighing scales and a trailer system to make it easy to transport. 

Finally, when working on a remote island, the machinery has to be reliable and easy to use.  Any complications and downtime is more costly than on the mainland, especially if spare parts or mechanical assistance are required.  That’s another reason for choosing Te Pari: our solutions are built tough.  Steel components are fully hot-dip galvanized after fabrication and only quality components, such as pneumatic parts from Italian and Australian steel, are used.  Everything is backed by a 10-year galvanising warranty, even on remote islands off the north coast of Scotland where the environment is as unforgiving as can be! 

Not that anyone wants to rely on a warranty, and while it’s nice to have - having a Racewell that works with no fuss or issue is better.  It certainly is for Shona from Shapinsay. 

Watch the Customer Testimonial from Shona!