A North Devon farmer has developed an innovative new way to move ewes and lambs without the need for muscle power or the risk of escapees.

An idea sparked during lambing open days two years ago, the Rolling Pen enables farmers to move ewes and lambs easily and safely between pens or sheds.

We first opened the farm gates for lambing open days a couple of years ago, says creator David Kennard. “With several hundred people visiting the lambing barns, and 700 ewes lambing, it soon became obvious that moving an erratic ewe with her lambs was impossible, for fear that she may knock someone over. As a result, I set about building a device that allowed us to move a ewe and lambs with complete control.”

The simple design comprises a floorless steel and weld mesh crate on wheels, into which the ewe is penned, with the lambs placed in a box on the front. “Because the ewe sees her lambs right in front of her nose, while the shepherd walks behind, she has no other choice than to follow her lambs. Ewes and lambs arrive at their destination in a controlled manner, reducing the stress on sheep, lambs and shepherd.”

The device proved so successful that even after the visitors had gone, the Rolling Pen remained firmly in use. “In fact it has become a prerequisite for students, children and my wife, or anyone else charged with moving a flighty looking ewe. It just makes the job so much easier,” says Mr Kennard.

Having generated considerable interest from neighbours and friends, Mr Kennard decided to put the Rolling Pen on the open market, using a local fabricator to manufacture the first of what may end up being many runs. He opted for solid caster wheels, to avoid the problem of punctures, added brakes to the rear wheels, and a yoke to secure reluctant ewes when teaching lambs to suckle.

“In years gone by I would use the ancient shepherding trick of holding a flighty ewe with my head pushed into her flank to stop her bolting around the pen. Now I can secure her simply in the Rolling Pen and leave both hands free to deal with the lamb. I only wish that I’d come up with the idea sooner, as it’s certainly one step towards making life in the lambing barn a little less stressful.”

Mr Kennard, who keeps 700 Romney ewes plus youngstock at Borough Farm, Mortehoe, Devon, is no stranger to innovation. Several years ago he created a DVD of his working sheepdogs, which sparked a book deal and the successful children’s television series Mist Sheepdog Tales. The programme aired in 23 countries, and ran to three series with 39 episodes, which are still repeated on Channel Five today. He also holds sheepdog displays during the summer, and lambing open days in April.

“But I’ve been sheep farming since I left school; it is still my real passion. And it has become so much more viable in the past two or three years, it is nice to be able to concentrate on the core farm once again.”

The Rolling Pen is available online www.rollingpen.co.uk for £390 + VAT. It will also be available online at www.molevalleyfarmers.com and in stores.

• Do you have any nifty ways of handling lambs at lambing or have you designed other ingenious ways of managing stock? Let us know on our forums


COVER IT LIVE – Your lambing questions answered

Have you got any questions on how to reduce lamb losses on your farm or do you have queries on general management at lambing? If so, we are hosting a live Q&A session with ADAS sheep consultant Kate Philips on Thursday 9 February at 6.30-7.30pm. There’s no need to register, just visit www.fwi.co.uk at this time to get involved.

If you can’t make the session, send in your questions to aly.balsom@rbi.co.uk and we’ll get them answered for you.

This session follows the success of our recent live Q&A with Sam Leadley as part of the Youngstock: Stop the Loss Campaign. We are keen to get your questions answered on all aspect of livestock management, so this is your chance to let us know which expert you would like to pick the brains of or what topic you would like to discuss. Email us to let us know your thoughts.