Tagging, drenching, foot trimming, crutching… The list of tasks requiring sheep to be handled is endless, making an easy to use handling set-up a necessity.
However, for Sussex contractor Rob Morris, simply penning sheep in a mobile handling yard isn’t enough – he wants to hold them tight, too.
“With fewer staff on farms nowadays, making sure sheep handling is as easy on the operator as possible is essential, as is eliminating the need for staff whenever possible.”
With this in mind, Mr Morris has invested nearly £10,000 in sourcing and modifying a V-Belt sheep conveyor race from Australia.
Originally designed as a static unit capable of holding five or six mature sheep at a time, the conveyor has been adapted by local engineering firm Goudhurst Engineers to mount on a trailer and for use with Mr Morris’s mobile plunge dip.
“With scab becoming ever more prevalent dipping is becoming a year-round task, so I wanted to ensure it was as stress free for both operator and sheep.”
The unit works by lifting sheep’s feet clear of the ground and carrying them forward in between two rubber belts angled in a V shape.
“Once sheep’s feet are off the ground they relax completely, making whatever task we’re undertaking much easier.”
And with the unit controlled by a foot pedal, the operator can continue dosing or tagging while still moving more sheep towards them.
The unit is run by two hydraulic pumps which can either be powered off the unit’s own mobile powerpack or from a standard tractor hydraulic system.
Once on the conveyor, sheep can also be turned over for tasks requiring access to their underside, such as foot trimming or crutching.
“All you have to do is take hold of them under the chin as the conveyor moves them along and over they go.
Once you’ve finished it’s simply a matter of reversing the operation to right them again.”
When linked up to the mobile dip Mr Morris estimates the conveyor can save at least one man’s wages a day simply because sheep don’t need to be forced up the ramp to the tun.