2 August 2002

Mobile shower for sheep successful

By Peter Hill

SHEEP treated for external parasites using a mobile shower are saved the trauma of plunging into a dip bath.

Rob Morris, chairman of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, says it is a method used in New Zealand to successfully treat several millions of sheep a year.

"The high volume nozzles give the sheep a thorough drenching that wets them through to their skin," he says. "Its very efficient, with an output twice that of a plunge dipping set-up, less stressful for the sheep, and safer for the operator."

Drawing on experience of contract dipping in New Zealand, Mr Morris commissioned his own conveyor sheep shower dip six years ago. It was expensive, he recalls, but has proved a hit treating up to 50,000 sheep a year against fly strike, lice and ticks in Sussex and Kent, plus a few additional locations further afield.

The self-contained outfit based on a twin axle chassis, comprises an entry ramp at one end and a pull-out draining area and exit ramp at the other. A 1500 litre sump holds a generous supply of dip solution, circulated through the system using an on-board engine-driven pump.

A Land Rover Defender 110 pick-up hauls the outfit and carries a tank that can be quickly filled with fresh water for the operation.

The clue to the main novelty of the design is evident in its title; sheep neither run nor walk through the drenching shower but are conveyed, one at a time, at a set speed on a moving rubber floor.

"As long as you keep up a steady stream of animals, they have no choice than to go through the shower at a speed that ensures they get a thorough drenching," says Mr Morris.

The operators main task, therefore, is to encourage animals up the single-file entrance ramp. Once on the conveyor, the animals pass through a pair of one-way swing doors then through the inverted U-shaped channel that houses the high volume nozzles.

Plastic curtain strips discourages them from lunging clear of the spray but, having passed through this barrier, the animals enter the drain off area which directs excessive liquid to flow back into the sump.

A plastic curtain at the exit encourages animals to remain in this area until there is sufficient shoving from behind to get them to leave.

"Its a lot less stressful for the animals than being forced to plunge into a bath," says Mr Morris. "But while it is effective at giving them a good drenching, it is also a lot quicker – we can put up to 700 animals an hour through this system, twice as many as with a traditional dip."

Moreover, because the operators role is confined largely to encouraging sheep up the entry ramp, any risk of contact with chemicals is virtually eliminated. That is another big plus as far as Mr Morris is concerned. &#42

Mobile shower in action… Sheep enter from the right, pass through the shower before emerging into the draining area and exit stage left.