Southern Riverina mixed enterprise farmers Peter and Natalie Durrant run their first-cross breeding operation approximately 50 km west of Moama, New South Wales. The Border Leicester x Merino flock runs on a mix of irrigated and dryland pastures however high water prices have meant the Durrant family have had to adapt based on seasons. This flexibility has enabled the farm to overcome low rainfall in recent years.
While stocking numbers fluctuate, this Southern Riverina location sees this progressive husband and wife team running between 600-1700 merino ewes over 2000 acres.
Their genetics are sourced locally with plans underway to move to a self-replacing merino operation.
Having worked the farm for many years, Peter knew he needed to update his facilities to improve safety and increase productivity.
“Our old yards were an old station design that had been condensed down. Too small, too many corners and too hard to work in. The draft used to head straight towards the shearing shed and sheep were reluctant to run up it. And then we had narrow, small pens when we were drafting. We were opening and shutting gates. Stopping and starting flow was just a constant”.
Peter and Natalie approached several stockyard suppliers to meet with them on their farm and devise a plan to build a facility. The design brief was to accommodate their specific operational requirements and existing infrastructure with a goal of safety, welfare and efficiency gains.
“We had a local contractor who built yards at the time look at the existing yards. Our red cedar tree line along the existing perimeter provides tremendous shade in the summertime. We said we wanted to keep them and he said point-blank that they have to be cut out because they didn’t suit his design”.
It was an answer that encouraged Peter and Natalie to seek out further ideas and professional opinion.
“We contacted ProWay and said ideally we wanted to keep the trees, they told us that wasn’t an issue. We have another tree inside the yards,” I said, “if we can possibly keep that it would be great. Again, this was incorporated into the design. Nothing was a problem.”
Designing around the existing shearing shed was also a key requirement “ProWay came out, measured everything with survey equipment and came up with a design. We sat down and went through it to make minor alterations and could rely on their experience. I was able to ask about potential issues on site and all our questions were answered. I think it was probably one of the highlights of the whole process.”
The design goes beyond just accommodating pre-existing trees and infrastructure, the labour efficiency and stock-flow is a big time and cost-saving. For Natalie there was an immediate improvement “The old yards certainly had their limitations, it was at least a two-person job, but now Peter can work the yards by himself” a sentiment echoed by Peter.
“After the yards were completed my retired parents came to visit. I had a mob of around 250 ewes and a similar number of lambs at foot. I drafted them three ways and all dad had to do was open and shut a few gates. That took about 20 minutes. It wasn’t until having a cup of tea with mum later when she asked how long it took, that I realised how easy it was with no stress at all.”
According to Peter, “The yards are much more efficient and it’s not until you think back to what it was like that you realise just how much of a productivity increase we’ve achieved and reduction on stress. There’s a lot less crashing and banging of stock because there was just so many corners in the old yards.”
Contractors and agents also appreciate the benefits of new facilities.
“Our stock agent comes to assess our crossbreed lambs and appreciates the serpentine draft setup. The lambs come around the S-bend and it slows them up a touch to give him a good chance to have a look at their form. It lets him make a much better decision as to whether that lamb is good enough to be drafted out or not.”
Having built the yards in 2015, the Durrants have recently purchased a ProWay 8m Mobile Loading Ramp which has dramatically improved loading.
“The width is terrific and has good flow go up the ramp and into the truck. The walkway on the side allows either the driver or myself to be able to walk up and down without affecting the flow of the stock. It’s incredibly safe, with non-slip flooring and a handrail.”
“Two very generous flaps that go over the truck entrance eliminates any gaps as sheep step onto the truck.”
“It made loading a hell of a lot easier. And certainly, the truck drivers appreciative the fact we can go straight up to the third deck. It’s a time issue for the truckie, he knows he can come here and not have to muck around. He’s in and out a lot quicker.”
For Peter and Natalie Durrant, dealing with ProWay has been satisfying.
“I haven’t got any faults whatsoever. There weren’t any issues. If something came up, you’d just ring them up and mention this needs to happen and it was just done. The whole experience was really good.”