SHEEP are back in a big way and both producers who have stuck with sheep and those getting back into them are looking at ways to run a more efficient and productive operation.
To help achieve this aim Kondinin Group put four of the most popular automatic-drafters through their paces as part of its research into precision sheep management systems.
A test panel of farmers, researchers and other industry experts rated the automatic-drafters on their accuracy and ease-of-use.
Kondinin Group research coordinator Toni Nugent said the test results would help producers choose the most suitable auto-drafter for their operation.
“The result is a complete buyer’s guide to getting best-fit precision system for your operation,” Mrs Nugent said.
The expert test panel evaluated the Atlex AT3 auto sheep management handler; Gallagher Smartdraft 3-way auto drafter; Prattley 3-way auto drafter and the Racewell super sheep handler.
The panel found all auto drafters tested were easy to operate and conducive to animal handling.
“Two indicators were evaluated both rated highly for readability with large easy to read displays. “However sunlight reflection off the screen was seen as a possible problem,” Mrs Nugent said.
“The trailer mounted systems allowed easy transportation between locations, but panel members questioned the larger size of some units suggesting this could limit their use in certain yards.”
“Most operator manuals were rated as average by the panel. They commented on the need for clear and concise diagrams combined with easy-to-understand explanations and a trouble shooting section.”
Mrs Nugent said it was important to maintain a continuous flow of sheep to ensure the efficient operation of the auto drafting system with animal throughput time varying considerably between the four drafting systems evaluated.
Comments made by the test panel provide manufacturers with the opportunity to further develop their products for the benefit of the producer.
“Manufacturers will take this feedback on board to make improvements if they are found to be lacking in certain areas,” she said.
Mrs Nugent said precision sheep management offered producers increased accuracy in marketing, breeding and decision-making but requires a significant investment.
“Before buying a sheep auto drafter, producers need to consider their objectives for weighing and drafting to determine the most suitable system for their business,” she said.