23 August 2002

ON BALANCE A FASTER WEIGH

Selecting lambs for market

can be a tedious task.

Mervyn Bailey describes

weigh crates that should

make the job quicker

and easier

LAMB weighing crates cover a wide spectrum from mechanical devices with manual drafting gates to sophisticated electronic designs with automated drafting into groups.

Most manufacturers offer both mechanical and electronic scales to suit customer preference and budgets. Electronic systems are costlier, but offer automatic recording and the ability to download data to computer management software.

And by using one or more load cells rather than a spring balance, the potential inaccuracies that come from trying to weigh active animals are largely eliminated, providing quicker and more accurate readings.

Inexpensive

For many users, though, mechanical weigh scales provide a perfectly adequate and relatively inexpensive method of weighing, with the added advantage that no power source is needed.

Ritchey Tagg, distributor of the Tru Test range, supplies most of the electronic display devices offered by weigh crate manufacturers. The waterproof Tru Test Eziweigh range can be powered by various battery or mains sources and provides a stable reading indicator and freeze value.

The Tru Test Series 2000 range offers more sophisticated models with larger memory capacity and options that include electronic animal identification and computer interface.

Suffolk-based company Pharmweigh supplies electronic scale conversion kits alongside a selection of crates.

There is a choice of two indicator options – the Pharmweigh Junior, similar to the Tru Test Eziweigh, and the Senior, which can be combined with livestock software applications and a simple memory facility for displaying weight limits.

Pharmweigh supplies three sizes of crate for lambs and ewes. The lamb crate has tapered sides, which are said to prevent the lamb from turning, while a head rail prevents lambs from jumping out. This can be removed to provide unrestricted access to the animal, while spray can holders keep things tidy.

Expanded steel mesh reduces muck build up on the floor but, in any case, the scales zero automatically once the lamb leaves. The exit gates open inward and are spring loaded shut when released.

Kinross-based S Koronka Manufacturing produces a simple mesh weigh crate with a damper unit to help stabilise the 150kg scale.

Spring loaded catches keep the entry and exit gates closed and the wooden floor can be removed for cleaning, while two small wheels make the £391 crate portable.

L M Bateman manufactures two mechanical models, the economy £380 Black Prince and more robust Thorne version. Both share the same mechanical weighing system, drop down lifting handles and wheels.

The powder paint-coated Black Prince has hinged gates with spring loaded handles. It is also lighter for easier transport between sites.

Designed for use in a race, the galvanised Thorne has split gates that are spring loaded to aid closing. Due to the position of the gate controls, animals can enter or exit from either side of the £507 unit.

With two systems based on the same crate, Ritchie Livestock Equipment offers both mechanical weighing for stock up to 150kg and electronic.

Animals gain entry via a vertically raised gate, which makes the unit suitable for use in a handling system, while the exit gate can be hinged on the left or right. The floor is galvanised and corrosion resistant.

Just one lever is used to secure the gates and weigh the animal on Ritchies £465 mechanical unit, while on the £825 electronic version, the weigh system consists of one load cell and an Eziweigh 2 indicator powered by a rechargeable battery or mains electricity supply.

Another Scottish firm marketing two weigh crate versions is Rancher Livestock Equipment. The open top galvanised or painted frame model has a side-mounted scale with sliding gates for animal access.

Wheels and transport handles can be attached to either side and linking eyes are fitted to allow the £445 Spring Balance Lamb Weigher to be used in a chase.

The Electronic Lamb Weigher uses a similar crate but the £827 galvanised or £804 painted version has the Eziweigh 1 indicator.

Transport wheels

Basic mechanical scales from IAE have mesh side panels and gates, with transport wheels and foldable lifting handles. The £407 unit uses long spring loaded handles to open the gates of the side-mounted scales.

The electronic version has load cells at the top of the structure, which requires a little extra steel work, and is available with the Eziweigh 1 (£792) or Eziweigh 2 (£955) units.

As well as providing a weigh crate, the Prattley range of handling equipment can draft lambs into three weight categories.

Imported to the UK through Rappa Fencing, for which Livestock Management Systems is a regional distributor, these are aimed at producers wanting high outputs. The top model in the range costs £4750.

Tapered side panels can be adjusted to suit various sizes of sheep and the top rail can be repositioned to allow access for condition scoring ewes or identification. Three sliding gates allow the animal to exit to the correct pen.

On the Powerdraft model, these are pneumatically operated according to signals from the weighing unit. Group weights can be changed in the field. &#42

Above: Pharmweigh produces weigh crates and electronic weighing packages to replace mechanical systems.

Left: Mechanical IAE scales are among a selection of models for farmers who prefer a simple, no-frills weighing crate.

Below: Aimed at farmers wanting speed and lower labour input, Prattley crates are available with three manual or pneumatic drafting gates.