Design allows range of tasks
FIRST step in deciding whats required of a handling system is to establish which tasks are to be carried out and on how many sheep.
The design must allow work such as dipping, drafting, dosing, inoculating and dagging to be done quickly with minimum stress on sheep and shepherd. "The simpler the system the more effective it will be," said Ms Stubbings.
If the system is to be static, consider where it should be sited, she said.
Ideally it should be central to the grazing areas, free draining, allow plenty of space, and be convenient for access and loading.
The site should allow the sheep into and out of the handling system the same way. "Also take advantage of the sheeps preference to move uphill by siting the races and working area so the sheep move through them up an incline."
Ms Stubbings advised ensuring the handling system allowed sheep to use their natural instinct to follow – think about siting, funnelling into the forcing pens, and appropriate use of solid and railed fences, she said. "And use the pens regularly so sheep become familiar with them." The gathering pen should be large enough to take all the sheep to be dealt with at one time, she added.
"Plan the set up so that the sheep will move well from there into the forcing pen and on into the race." Circular forcing pens could work well. "But think about how youre going to get the sheep into that pen," she said.
"One thing that revolutionises peoples systems for £200 is a hosking gate," she said. This works through 360í to move sheep around the forcing pen into the race and can save a lot of time.
Long narrow sorting races worked best by presenting a continuous stream of sheep before the footbath, dipper or treatment race.
Ms Stubbings liked to use a treatment race – about 0.8-0.9m (2.5-3ft) wide – so she could stand in it and work through the sheep, for example, when vaccinating.
Plastic-type footbaths would also fit into this type of race very well – as an alternative to having a footbath race. Otherwise she suggested building a stand-in footbath for use with zinc sulphate. Ms Stubbings also advised considering at this stage whether it was really worth investing in a dipper. "It may be easier to get a mobile in but if you employ contractors ensure they dispose of dip correctly."
Sorting gates at the end of races could be two or three-way but Ms Stubbings favoured two-way drafting.n
Can you afford a new system?
New mobile system @ £5000 depreciated over eight years for 500-ewe flock is £2/ewe – or 3% of lamb sales/ewe
• Reduced lamb and ewe mortality – by 1%.
• Increased accuracy and timeliness when drawing lambs.- higher lamb returns: less bruising/better grades.
• Lower labour costs of sheep handling.
• Better grouping of sheep helps when condition scoring and preparing for tupping – higher output/less feed wastage.
For dates and venues of your nearest meeting on Effective Sheep Handling contact ADAS (01865-845137).