Stephen Schulz | ProWay Sheepyards and Bulk Handler, Williams, WA
For Merino breeder and fat lamb producer Stephen Schulz of Williams, WA, the home yards of “Woolakabin” were due for an overhaul to improve the efficiency of sheep handling, and facilitate the next generation in farming. These were the deciding factors in a significant investment in stock handling infrastructure.
“For us it came down to ease of management. That’s how we justified it. We’d had a few goes at getting the yards right over the years, but in the end, I knew we had to start from scratch and build something that suited our management program and all of us working here.
“We’re a family farming operation. It’s all of us really who manage the stockwork. Myself and son Lewis (23), as well as Binda my wife and now our daughter Amy (27).”
The commercial flock of 7,000 merino ewes run over 2,700 hectares and joined primarily to Merino rams. The balance of roughly 2,000 ewes are mated to White Suffolk terminal sires to ideally turn off fat lambs between 40-45 kilograms.
“Last year, due to the dryer season we made the call to get them off early to allow our spring feed to get away.”
The new facilities, which were built by ProWay in 2018, allowed for these drafting decisions to be made effectively.
“I’d say we’ve improved efficiency by 40%. That’s the efficiency of sheep work in the yards compared to the old setup. It’s labour efficiency, but as well the sheep just flow really well.”
As well as the sheepyards, the upgrade included an 8m adjustable loading ramp which can load to the 3rd deck.
“We loaded a road train last spring with the store lambs. I was really impressed, the sheep just flew up it.”
The facilities were customised specifically around the requirements of the operation. For Stephen and his son, the new yards were a result of significant research and planning. The pair were first introduced to ProWay through the purchase of their 12m Sheep Bulk Handler in 2014.
“I first saw the Bulk Handler doing demonstrations at Wagin Woolarama, following that I took Lewis down there and we both just knew it was a game changer.”
“As far as the Bulk Handler goes, every sheep farmer should just buy one. It’s the best thing I’ve ever bought. It’s a bit like GPS in the tractor, once you’ve used it, you couldn’t go back to the old way. With our daughter Amy home, she’s able to drench or capsule ewes no trouble at all now. In the old yards that was just too demanding.”
We’ve just finished treating ewes with a 100 day control capsule for worms, I think the last day they capsuled 1,300 sheep by 11am after kicking off around 7:30am. Nobody broke a sweat, It’s just so much easier.
After seeing the benefits of the bulk handler, the father and son were determined to build a state-of-the-art set of yards.
“Myself and Lewis spent a week in South Australia and into Victoria looking at different setups and features before we finalised our design.”
“There were a lot of ideas I wanted to make sure we got right. I didn’t want to be climbing fences so I pencilled 28 access gates into the design and requested all the sheep gates have slam shut catches.”
“Troy from ProWay was sensational, we were emailing daily for around four months to refine the design.
“We also put a rotary force off the main bugle. It’s on the outside of the working area and works really well for the different contractors and equipment that might come to the yards. Preg testing, crutching, even using an electro dip, any application really, it just works very well.”
“We’ve got two other sets of old wooden yards on other parts of the property, but you go and work in them for half a day and you just can’t wait to get back to the new ones!”
“We’ve had a lot of visitors coming to check out the new yards and I’d definitely recommend ProWay to anyone.”