21 February 1997

Improved handling systems make for easy management

Effective sheep handling systems can reduce workloads and improve timeliness and accuracy of treatments, according to the first of a new series of ADAS run meetings. Sue Rider reports

POOR handling facilities on many sheep farms are hampering flock management.

Producers at a MAFF-funded, ADAS-run meeting on Effective Handling Facilities heard that practical, easy-to-operate systems were now more important than ever – yet few existed on UKfarms.

The need for better systems was two-fold. There was mounting pressure for one shepherd to manage more and more sheep and new drugs available required better facilities to ensure their correct use.

"In 1982 one shepherd was responsible for 350 ewes; in 1992 he was expected to manage twice that number and since then numbers have gone up further," ADAS principal sheep specialist Lesley Stubbings told the seminar at Aswarby Estates Farm, Aswarby, Sleaford, Lincs.

She said the only way flockmasters could manage extra ewes and still ensure routine tasks were timely and effective was to have good handling facilities, largely workable by one person.

New preventative type drugs had further increased the need for a good handling system. Resistance of worms to white drenches was a case in point.

"We have not used these drugs as well as we might – in part due to poor handling facilities – and one consequence is underdosing which encourages resistance."

The same was true of injectables against scab. "If you miss one ewe you might as well have not treated the rest because that one ewe will reinfect them. Good handling systems that allow accurate dosing are therefore paramount."

Sheep producers at Aswarby Estates Farm last week heard how good handling facilities could ease flock management and boost profit.


HANDLING TIPS


&#8226 Choose a good site – not just a convenient corner.

&#8226 Decide what operations will be carried out.

&#8226 Plan so that sheep circulate through the system.

&#8226 Allow sheep to use their natural instinct to follow.