Sam Parsons is the farming & estate director at Balcaskie Estate in the East Neuk of Fife. They are committed to cultivating and caring for the natural environment, nurturing local business and supporting our vibrant community. Balcaskie was converted to organic farming in 2016. Balcaskie Estate covers 2000ha with a mixture of let farms and in-hand farming operations. Last year they purchased a Racewell HD4 Sheep Handler from Te Pari.
“We looked at getting an auto drafting system when we started to creep the numbers of sheep up because we were starting to weigh more frequently for drawing fat lambs and obviously we were trying to go through sheep more frequently and trying not to put the staff numbers up to manage the sheep numbers and looking at something like the Te Pari system to help that – that’s why we started looking.” Said Sam.
Pictured above: Ewan using the Racewell Sheep Handler. Proportional control of the side tilt function means that you can tip the sheep over to any angle you want to suit your ideal working position.
Ewan Ramage is the shepherd at Balcaskie Estate, when we asked what he thought of the Racewell he said. “The Racewell Handler has been great to work with it’s been very simple to set up. Generally, we use it for drafting lambs and getting weights for them. We use the drafting gates so we can put them into separate groups so we know roughly what lambs are ready to go this week, we’ve got another fortnight until the next draw, we know roughly how many lambs we’ve got to go the next time but we also use it for drenching lambs, for crutching ewes and just general sheep work really."
"So the Te Pari has a lead-up ramp and it also has a leg that comes in behind the sheep to stop the 2nd ewe from pushing back which is quite good, that helps keep the flow going well. As the next ewe comes through into the clamp, it clamps itself automatically or you can manually clamp it as well if you wish. It also has a tipping mechanism on it so we can tip the ewes out and open the back up so we can go in and see bags, feet, tail ewes anything like that. It has the drafting system on it, we have a 4-way drafter which is brilliant for drafting lambs and doing that sort of stuff.” Said Ewan.
Sam Parsons first saw the Racewell Sheep Handler at the Highland Show. “I went and had a good chat with them and poked at things and pulled things and criticized it and kicked it and did what you usually do and made them work pretty hard to sell it to me, and annoyingly they up-sold me and I got a more expensive one than the one I went to go and look at. But actually, that came about because I recognized that it was already a significant investment for the machine and having demonstrated the model up from the one we were initially looking at it was worth spending the extra on it.” Said Sam.
“Te Pari came out to give us a demonstration and we got some lambs in and we got to weigh, there were other people who came across as well to have a look at it. After the decision to go with the Te Pari, Giles came back out again and delivered it by hand and he stayed with us for a good hour, an hour and a half just to make sure that everything was set up just the way that we liked it and the machine was running right and yeah he’s been brilliant.” Said Ewan.
“I think if I was going to say the one thing that stood out to me about this machine was the sheep flow without needing people to push them up the race, the sheep just flow. Certainly, the biggest benefit we’ve seen so far is the ability to really start to performance monitor the sheep because we’re weighing them frequently, we’re recording it we’ve got the data to then go back and play with that on a spreadsheet and work out what sheep are coming in future. For us we need to be working 2-4 weeks ahead to book in slots at abattoirs etc to get the maximum price, every week delayed early in the season is a penalty on price reductions, so if we can hit the spec, hit the weight and hit the target number we can actually work out a fact backed calculation on this machine, we can gain 12 pounds a lamb hitting the spec as tight as we can without getting a penalty on it so that for me was the money shot on that when we were working that calculation out.” Said Sam.
Pictured above: Ewan using the Racewell Sheep Handler with side tilt and rear access flap to crutch a ewe. Te Pari Sheep Handlers have optional front and rear access flaps which make tasks such as crutching, checking feet, wigging and other inspection much easier.
“The Te Pari system is very easy to use all the buttons are self-explanatory it’s all there in front of you, the remote is brilliant, the foot pedals are a big advantage as well for crutching like we’re doing today, and everything is just where you need it to be and everyone seems to get on really well with it. The students are quite happy to get on and use it as well which is a big bonus.
The Te Pari system makes it a lot easier on the body, there are no aches and pains at the end of the day because the sheep is where it needs to be so you’re doing less bending and less manual labour yourself. Any sort of tool that can help like that is a big bonus for the farming community.” Said Ewan.
“We’ve put a lot of investment in arable farming and technology over the years and livestock farming tended to be sort of slightly behind, this is the equivalent of GPS in the tractor, this is the sort of technology in livestock farming that we really needed.” Said Sam.