Make it easy to handle
With a multitude of tasks to take care of, the sheep farmer needs a proper handling unit
Published 26/04/2011 | 10:46
An effective handling unit is an essential piece of equipment for every serious sheep farmer.
If we look at all the tasks that have to be carried out, a typical sheep farm could end up having to handle sheep as follows:
- April: First worm dose and footbath
- May: Second worm dose and footbath
- June: Weaning or drafting lambs from ewes, weighing lambs, drafting first lambs for slaughter, worm dose lambs, footbath, draft off replacement ewe lambs, fly strike prevention
- July: Weigh, draft lambs, footbath, draft off cull ewes, segregate ewes according to body condition
- August: Weigh, draft lambs, worm dose, footbath, prepare rams for mating season
- September: Weigh, draft lambs, worm dose, footbath, footbath ewes, treat lame ewes
- October: Weigh, draft lambs, footbath and routine health care of breeding sheep before ram turnout
- November: Weigh, draft lambs
- December - March: Routine healthcare before and during housing.
In a nutshell, it means that the sheep will have to be handled, treated, drafted or weighed about 30 times a year. On farms where the entire holding is in one block, a permanent handling unit that is centrally located to the grazing area is the best option. However, most drystock farms are fragmented and this is where a mobile handling facility comes to the fore.
But what is an effective handling unit? When I was a teenager I spent some time working on sheep farms where sheep were driven into an old house or a pen made of pallets in a corner of the field. The operator then waded through the sheep, wrestling with them to dose them, then they had to be marked with a marker pen so they wouldn't end up being dosed a second time before moving to the next sheep.
Drafting involved having to physically drag each sheep out of the pen and as foot-bathing was non-existent, paring and numerous tins of blue antibiotic spray were used. Needless to say, this type of activity is time-consuming, stressful for both man and beast and, in terms of foot care, not at all effective.
An effective handling unit should have:
1) Collecting pen or yard -- This should be big enough to hold the maximum number of sheep that the farm runs in one flock. Allow 0.35m per lowland ewe (add 30pc per lamb).