Royal Highland Show: Sheep handling goes mobile

Two very different approaches to handling sheep have “gone mobile” so that the handling devices can be moved to different locations more easily.

The CombiClamp is a squeeze crush designed and developed in New Zealand but manufactured by David Ritchie Implements at its Forfar factory in Angus. Sheep are held firmly but gently between two panels using just the weight of the operator standing on a full-width footplate section of the work platform.

“We already have a chassis for moving the device by ATV but the trailer version makes it possible to travel longer distances by road and set-up the system away from the home farm,” explains Bob Ritchie. “The twin-axle trailer unit has space for a three-way drafting gate, two dozen hurdles and a curved panel set, plus other equipment.”

The CombiClamp unit itself does not have to be dismounted; instead, feed-in and exit ramp sections are positioned either side.

Sheep are secured by stepping on to the footplate, which activates the hinged panel furthest from the operator. It is therefore automatically adjusted to the size of the animal.

Once the sheep is held in position, opening sections give rear end access for dagging and foot trimming and the front feet can be pulled forward for clipping as the animal’s weight is supported by the side panels. There are hangers for the clipping unit and for drenching and vaccination equipment.

Tru-Test weighing options and a Tagmaster/Allflex electronic identification reader can be added to the base unit, which is priced £2,315, plus £2,792 for the trailer unit.

DM handling

David McGillivray, of DM Handling Systems, was award a technical innovation silver medal for incorporating a sheep ID reader and weighing system with his conveyor sheep handling device, which can be bought as a static unit or in new mobile spec.

Sheep entering the system are lifted off their feet by two electric motor-driven conveyor belts inclined at an angle and controlled by a foot pedal.

Building load cells into the frame provides a weighing facility and buyers can also now add a panel reader for electronic identification tags or boluses.

“There’s an auto stop option that halts the conveyor instantly if a tag is faulty or missing; other systems let the sheep through and you then have to find it amongst all the others,” Mr McGillivray points out.

The sheep handler comes in 1.2m, 1.5m, 1.8m and 2.4m lengths to suit all animals from lambs to big tups. The popular 1.8m size built on to the new high-speed towing chassis is priced at £9,800, with the weighing option between £1,200 and £2,500 and EID reader from £2,900.

Improving animal welfare

While welcoming the availability of grants to encourage the purchase of mobile handling, sheep weighing and electronic ID systems to improve animal health and welfare, Bob Ritchie warns they are distorting the normal supply chain.

“We have a lot of quotes out but farmers are deferring their purchase decision until they know whether or not they’ve got a grant,” he says. “My concern is that a tranche of grant approvals will put undue pressure on the supply chain and it may not be possible for equipment to be installed and put into use by the cut-off date for approved purchases.”

In any case, he suggests, stockmen could be better off spending sooner rather than later if labour-saving equipment reduces costs beyond the value of any grant.

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