Handling large numbers of lambs a breeze
Kim Woods – May 12, 2014
Supplying 10,000 lambs to domestic markets translates into a lot of time spent in the sheep yards for prime lamb producer Fay Buckley.
During busy times of the year, Mrs Buckley and her staff process 2000-3000 lambs a week through the yards on the 1610ha Buckley Farms, at Pleasant Park, near Mt Gambier.
A set of portable yards, shifted between two properties, sufficed for years until Fay decided to bite the bullet and build a new set from scratch. The result is a 3500-head capacity, labour efficient design from ProWay with a covered work area and B-double access.
“The existing shearing shed and sheep yards are 10km from this site so we have been using a portable set of sheep yards since purchasing this property five years ago”, Mrs Buckley said.
Fay, her husband Jeffery, and sons Terry and Wayne, run Buckley Farms, growing 344ha of processing potatoes and running 10,000 self-replacing maternal composite ewes. Ranked in the top five of the nation’s growers, the family produces potatoes for french fries, crisping and wedges, grown under 20 bore-fed irrigation pivots. Up to 202ha of irrigated lucerne, rye grass, clover, chicory and plantain pastures are used for finishing prime lambs. The lambs are weaned at 14 weeks, and turned off at 18-24kg carcass weight in condition score three.
With such large mob sizes constantly being handled, a yard design promoting stock flow, and labour efficiency was a priority for the family. Mrs Buckley spent several years researching designs, stock handling equipment and manufacturers before approaching ProWay.
Fay and Buckley Farms livestock manager Mark Fairlie worked with ProWay’s Andrew McFarland to develop a design for the chosen greenfield site. A limestone gravel base was laid, the yards delivered on time and erected by a contractor.
Built in November 2013, the yards feature a 13m-long double, raised working race with guillotine and tumble swing gates. A 0.6m wide adjustable v-drafting race has a three-way draft and place for an autodrafter. Two four-way diamond yards offer flexibility while a large skillion roof protects from the elements. The original capacity of 1550 was increased to 1700 head by extending the holding yards by 3m.
We do handle large mobs of 2000-3000 so needed plenty of room for drafting and B double access”, Mrs Buckley said.
Mrs Buckley said the design used the natural instinct of stock, resulting in less labour and dogs, and calmer sheep.
“We have the ability to use portable equipment, such as weighing scales, pregnancy scanning unit and immobilizer for crutching, in the drafting race”, she said.
“The overhead cable operating the guillotine gates on the drenching race means people are not walking as far”
Preparing lambs for over-the-hook sales or handling ewes pre-lambing was now a pleasant task, according to Mark Fairlie. He said 10,000 lambs were processed through the yards within the first two weeks.
“Since having the yards, we have found labour efficiency has increased. We have been able to drench around 3000-4000 lambs a day no problems at all”, Mr Fairlie said.
“The raised drenching race takes a lot of back ache out of it, the sheep stand in it well, and increases efficiency of the whole operation. We usually have one person pushing up and two vaccinating and drenching. The double drenching race is a good length and takes 75 lambs in each side.”
“These yards are a pleasure to work in, it’s easier and less stressful . we can get sheep out of nearly every pen into an outside yard”.