WOOLGROWERS may have to wait until early next year to inspect the first shearing shed built in Western Australia to what is hoped will become a new Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) industry standard design.
Chad Lavender and his Chippy Chad & Co Constructions team expect to complete finishing touches today and tomorrow after a rapid four-month build for Glenpadden Farms, Kojonup, because by Monday Katanning contractor Darren Byrne and his shearers and wool handlers will have moved in.
Geoff Bilney, who runs Glenpadden Farms with wife Linda, explained there was no time between completion and start of shearing to hold an open day so interested farmers and shearers could inspect the modular six-stand, horseshoe-shaped flat-board shed that Mr Bilney expects will shave a full day's shearing off each week, for the 42 weeks of the year it will be used.
"It's unfortunate, but we've already got 15,000 sheep up there on the hill waiting to be shorn so we need to get straight on with it," said Mr Bilney last week, explaining why a previously mooted open day has been pushed back.
"I would imagine in January or February we will probably do something, because there are a lot of people who are interested and are keen to have a look," he acknowledged.
Apart from its own commercial flock of 4500 Dohne ewes, Glenpadden Farms operates a sheep feedlot, which was the main driver behind adopting and modifying the AWI design that incorporates features to improve occupational health and safety and address animal welfare concerns.
This shed will see more sheep in one year than most shearing sheds see in 10 years, Mr Lavender pointed out.
So it will be a good test of the AWI design which can be adapted as a major renovation to existing sheds and, while it looks a million dollars, it did not cost anywhere near that, according to Mr Bilney and Mr Lavender.
"Anything from the feedlot that has to be shorn goes through here," Mr Bilney explained last week.
"They don't all get shorn, only those that are viable - maybe 65,000-70,000 sheep a year will go through this shed.
"The shearing contractor was here three days a week, every week, with the old (four stand) shed.
"It was probably a quarter the size of this, it was antiquated and way below standard."
Pulling down the old shed to clear the site was part of the build for the new shed which measures 36 metres by 24m by 7m to the roof gutter line.
It has a 2.7m ceiling height for the count-out pens beneath the wool room and laneway, filling and catching pens on the upper level.
"One of the requirements was we need to get a (skid-steer loader) in underneath," Mr Bilney explained.
"We put two feet (61 centimetres) of sheep manure under the shed each year.
"I didn't want people going in there with spades and wheelbarrows to clean it out.
"It wasn't our agenda to build the gold standard for Westen Australia," he admitted.
"We wanted something that was future proof and we saw this design on the internet.
"I really liked the features that made it a safer and more comfortable workplace for shearers and a safer place for sheep and the sheep dog - he's not going to get his feet caught jumping fences."
In 2018 AWI collaborated with shearing contractor and woolgrower, Hilton Barrett from Dubbo, New South Wales, to design a shearing shed which addressed worker safety and animal welfare considerations while achieving improved efficiency and good wool quality outcomes.
After trials and revisions, they came up with a repeatable three-pen and board modular design with sufficient holding capacity for at least two shearing runs and multidirectional plastic grate flooring for laneway and holding pens.
Catching pens feature a sloping grated floor - karri timber in the Glenpadden shed is expected to last 50 years - so sheep naturally stand facing away from double swing-gates, ready for the shearer to drag them back to the workstation.
The catching pens are angled so it is a straight drag for the shearer, reducing risk of back injury from having to twist or turn and the angle and saw-tooth arrangement of chutes maintains that straight line.
A flat top on the galvanised sheet-metal chutes provides a space for shearers' accessories and personal items, while the chutes have an initial short vertical step to prevent sheep resisting and the angle of descent decreases so sheep will be on their feet coming off the chute.
The horseshoe board - industry standard non-slip tongue-and-groove jarrah in Glenpadden's shed - minimises the distance between the wool table and each shearer - the Glenpadden shed will run two wool presses for greater efficiency.
"The presser is going to be a little bit busier going from four stand to six, so having two presses will make it easier for him," Mr Bilney said.
A telehandler with bale grab will shift bales from a loading bay on the upper level and stack them in the ground-level front area of the shed.
Mr Bilney, Mr Lavender and Mr Byrne went to Dubbo late last year to inspect Mr Barrett's shed and between the three of them they came up with their own modifications.
"All of us had some input," Mr Bilney said.
Most obvious was the extra underfloor height and a longer and less steep entry ramp to the back corner of the shed - a different location to the AWI design - which enables more sheep to be held in a laneway and return across the back of the shed.
Glenpadden's shed has a galvanised steel subframe - rather than timber - so there are wider spans between support posts, making it easier to clean out and floor joists are at closer spacings for greater strength and support beneath the wool presses.
Greater underfloor height also required longer and less steep chutes which was an important consideration.
"It's quite important that our lambs don't get bruised or injured in the chutes - it's quite critical," Mr Bilney said.
At the front of the shed on one side of the upper level is a shearers' quarters, designed by Linda, comprising toilets, a shower, wash room, fully equipped kitchen, lunchroom and sleeping quarters in case a shearer falls ill during the day or a farm hand has to work a long shift during harvest.
A large evaporative air-conditioning unit with ducting to the six shearings stands and kitchen and lunchroom is also being considered.
"The metabolism of feedlot sheep is different, they generate a lot more body heat than paddock-run sheep, so even though the roof is insulated, once you fill the space with sheep it'll heat up quickly, so we're discussing air -conditioning," Mr Bilney said.
Eventually too, the north side of the roof will be covered with solar panels to help reduce the farm's power bills.
Existing external yards will also be modified to suit the new shed.
"It's never just a new shed is it?" Mr Bilney said.