Many producers have sought to use sheep-handling equipment in an effort to reduce costs and increasing operator safety….so selecting the correct one is essential.
THE PRINCIPAL ADVANTAGES OF A SHEEP HANDLER ARE:
1) reduced physical effort or skill required of operators, along with reducing manual handling risks
2) increased efficiency of existing farm labouring operations such as crutching, foot inspection and paring, drenching and vaccinating.
TYPES OF SHEEP HANDLERS
There is a range of design types in sheep handlers, which vary in complexity, construction and cost. Each design has its own strengths or weaknesses, being suited to particular applications. There are 2 basic designs or modes of operation available.
1. Rollover Units (eg. Sheep Catcher or Rapid Handler)
Animals are caught and rotated so the animal is inverted when presented to operator. Some are designed to be one animal at a time (mainly for the smaller numbers) or a dual animal, counterbalanced design, which reduces operator effort and improves the flow of the animals and speed of the operation.
2. Conveyor or Elevator Units (eg. V express)
This is a more advanced design in which animals walk into the machine single file and they are picked up between a pair of moving belts arranged in a V profile, which takes their feet out of contact with the ground, thereby reducing the animals ability to fight the operator. The animal is restrained by its own weight between the V profile belts, and it also is easily inverted, by holding them under the neck as the machine moves the animal past the operator, achieving a gentle rolling action which ends with the animal on its back. Drenching becomes an easier task on these machines as the animals flow past the operator, not fighting them, just opening mouths whilst animals are held at a comfortable working height (no bending over). No double doses or missed doses.
Consideration needs to be given to the tasks that will need to be performed with the handler. Are you able to carry out the following:
Drenching, backlining, foot inspection or paring, crutching, wigging, ring pizzle, udder inspection, classing, vaccinating, wool sampling, dehorning, mouthing, scanning, putting wool protection coats on or off, A.I. and any other tasks you intend to perform with the handler?
If you crutch on the handler, how can you handle the crutchings to avoid loss or contamination of wool?
For efficient use of the handler, time must be given for correct positioning within the yards. Sometimes you are able to achieve this on the first attempt, but mostly it takes various trials in different positions and possible alterations to existing yards to gain the best location. Lead up sections are important to help with easier flow of animals to the handler, and utilizing curved race sections or twin lane / oblique lane with hock bars and/or anti backing bars, can be well worth while if positioned correctly. The operator must have easy access to animal storage and force areas to maintain the flow to the handler. Access for dogs is also important. Consideration should be given to light or shadows, screening animals from sighting operator does often help, and possible animal decoys. Any change the animal notices with their feet, like different surfaces, little ramps or belts, often deters their flow to the handler…. even noises can have reactions from the animals…….so there are many things to consider when positioning a handler to get the best result.
A handler is normally judged by the quantity of animals it can handle in a certain time frame, but this should not be the only outcome looked for. Quality of work, safety and consistency of output should also be considered. The best overall results come if the handler is incorporated into an efficient yard system that is capable of delivering animals to the handler with a minimum of effort and time. The work area needs to be a safe and reasonably comfortable environment that will be conducive to the operator maintaining an acceptable work rate and quality. Access to necessary tools or equipment, should be close and easy for the operator, and consideration given to reducing or eliminating the possibility of OHS concerns (slips, trips, falls, strains, injury). Shelter from the weather is a great help as well.
This will result in a safe and efficient system that will give a good consistent quality output.