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A firm grip on sheep handling


Graham Potterton specialises in the design and installation of sheep units

Graham Potterton specialises in the design and installation of sheep units

Graham Potterton specialises in the design and installation of sheep units

With TAMS II opening in recent weeks, there is a renewed interest among sheep farmers about handling equipment options.

Equipment specialist such as Cormac's Bernie Mangan say that they have been "running on fumes" with the level of work that has been generated over the last number of months.

Much of this has been last minute applicants to the TAMS I scheme, but in anticipation of a sustained period of investment by farmers over the new scheme's life up to 2020, companies such as Cormac and Mayo's Connacht Agri are increasing staffing numbers and manufacturing output.

Grants of up to 40pc of the reference price (see table) are available up to a maximum total spend of €80,000.

Applications will be ranked, with extra points for applicants under 40 years of age, farming in Areas of Natural Constraint, larger enterprises, first-time TAMS applicants, and low-cost applications.


One man that has specialised in the design and installation of sheep handling units is Graham Potterton.

The Kildare native works for Cork farm equipment makers and distributors, O'Donovan Engineering, but he specialises in the top-end sheep equipment line manufactured by New Zealand's Prattley.

"It's amazing the efficiency that you can get out of a unit if it is set-up right and utilises the right kit," he says.

"Obviously I'm a fan of Prattley but I also own a 20 year-old Prattley unit that has handled a million sheep during its lifetime, and is still fully operational.

"But it does come at a price, so farmers should also consider cheaper steel alternatives in penning that they are not planning to move much during the year," he says.

Potterton also believes that farmers should adopt the approach of world renowned animal behaviourialist, Temple Grandin, to appreciate the value of Prattley's design.

"You need to get down to the sheep's level and look at obstructions, noises and openings.

"A sheep will always aim for any escape route it can see, but it doesn't like too much glare or light. Even little things like positioning a batch footbath around the corner from a race helps provided you can show them where they are going.

"Also the width of a race and the provision of one-way gates and drafting gates can make a big difference in simple jobs like dosing.

Farmers really under-estimate the amount of walking up and down races to open gates, shunt sheep out, back up to close gates again, and back down to fill the shoot again.

"Or they're leaning in over hurdles, struggling to hold animals steady while balancing on one leg - that's not conducive to a long career at sheep!" he says.

Graham also thinks that farmers under-estimate how valuable a management tool good drafting facilities such as a three-way gate can be.

"If you can draft two groups off your fattening lambs each time, you are able to manage their diets much better.

"One group goes straight to the factory, but the second could be put on Typhon or pushed on with creep feed, while the rest are separated for a standard feeding regime.

"Or when you're condition-scoring ewes, you can pull out rams or problem cases separately. The labour-saving is all in that third gate," says Potterton.

Indo Farming