Video: Business flourishes with bespoke sheep-dipping crate

A Durham farmer and contract sheep dipper has seen his mobile sheep-dipping business flourish since he started using his bespoke mobile dipping crate.

  • Sheep dipping speed increased to 300 ewes an hour
  • Dipping round grew from 2,500 to more than 100,000 ewes a year in four years
  • Dipping crate dips up to 16 ewes at once

Neil Fell, Nafferton Farm, Brancepeth, Willington, has seen annual numbers increase from 2,500 sheep in 2013 to more than 100,000 this year.

See also: How a farmer cut antibiotics and the cost of sheep abortion

 

The demand for dipping and the hard work involved convinced Mr Fell automation was required to make the process faster and safer.

Since the introduction of the automated system, dipping speed has more doubled from 120-150 sheep an hour and a record of 1,300 in 12 hours to between 280-310 sheep an hour and a record of 1,650 in six hours.

This has allowed Mr Fell to grow his business – Neil Fell Sheep Dipping – into a UK-wide concern, stretching into Scotland, Wales and southern England. 

The machine houses a handheld controller, a 1,000gal (4,546-litre) tank and a 6.5t manually operated winch and a generator as a backup power supply for the tank.

Health and safety equipment needed

Diazinon is a POM-VPS product meaning it can only be prescribed by a vet or suitably qualified person 

  • Visor for eye protection
  • Respirator mask
  • Gloves (300mm rubber)
  • Hazard chemical suit or lined waterproofs
  • Wellington boots

Parasite control

  • Sheep scab Psoroptes ovis mite – can also be controlled with macrocyclic lactones.
  • Blowflies The most common ectoparasite in lambs.
  • Ticks Generally active between March and October.
  • Keds Often mistaken for ticks. Cause irritation, anemia, hide and wool damage.
  • Lice Sheep can be affected by sheep body louse – Bovicola ovis – which also put them at risk of sheep scab.

Design

Mr Fell contacted Wolsingham-based engineers C&A Agricultural Engineering to design and produce a dipping unit mounted on the back of a truck.

“I had seen a New Zealand design and changed it slightly by lowering the box down on a pulley system using cables instead of [hydraulic] rams,” says Mr Fell.  

“The sheep go up the ramp in batches of 12-13, we can get about 15-16 hill sheep in and 18-19 lambs in,” explains Mr Fell.

“We totally submerge the sheep three times over a 1min and 10 second period making sure the dip solution fully covers the sheep because parasites can live in ears and eye sockets.”

Upon release from the dipping tank the sheep are allowed a short rest period. The trailer is sealed and designed with a 6in slope and high sides to make sure all dipping solution remains in the tank.

Two settings are available for roof height to accommodate taller breeds of sheep such as the Bluefaced Leicester tups or alpaca. 

Previous trailer

Mr Fell’s first trailer is still in use. The design uses a slope to carry sheep in the dip solution, a decoy sheep to attract sheep up the race and requires staff to hold sheep under the dip with paddles for the allotted time. 

This system achieved a record of 1,300 sheep in a 12-hour day on one occasion and generally dipped 120-150 sheep an hour. 

Why dip?

Mr Fell says while sheep sprayers, jetters, pour-ons and injectables can control parasites, dipping can manage lice, scab, blowfly, keds and ticks in one go.   

 He says sheep dip is an organophosphorus product classed as POM-VPS, meaning only vets, pharmacists or suitably qualified persons can prescribe and use them.

“Some dip tanks are now cracked and too old, you also have tight rules on where you can put dipping tanks to eliminate sheep dip getting into water courses,” explains Mr Fell.

“I’m also licensed to take waste dip away. I store it in a 25,000-gallon tank and a waste disposal company then takes it away.”