July 1, 2013
The thought of sheep work was always painful for southern NSW prime lamb producers Ian and Diana Locke.
The cause of the distress was a 50-year-old set of timber sheep yards on the family’s Holbrook property. Pregnancy scanning, weighing lambs, post shearing animal health treatments and general husbandry work proved a headache in the ageing yards. Drafting took at least three to four people – a job now done by one person and a good dog in the family’s new set of yards.
Involved in bench marking for years, Ian was influenced by Holmes and Sackett to make the workplace more labour efficient as a key driver of profitability.
“Good facilities can also make tasks more enjoyable and promote a safer and productive workplace,’’ Ian said.
He and wife Diana turned to ProWay Livestock Equipment in 2011 to design a new set of sheep yards. The couple had previously worked with the Wagga Wagga based company in the late 1990s to construct new cattle yards around their existing infrastructure. They wanted to maintain the five stand woolshed and its ramp, count out yards, shade trees, and footbath plus laneways and fencelines leading to the yards.
Ian spoke to contractors to determine the measurements for weigh or scanning crates and sheep handling machines to be placed at the end of permanent races or drafts. Air pipes were included in the final design for the future use of pneumatic equipment.
The 3000-head capacity yards were constructed on a gravel pad for efficient drainage, and concrete aprons installed in high traffic areas. Multiple bugle laneways create effective stock flow into a 15m double curved, flat top drenching race fitted with spring-release and guillotine gates. Adjoining is a 600mm wide, adjustable V drafting race featuring hand safe draft gates and tumble swing gates.
Sheep rail has been used in the 1050mm high panels in the working area where pressure is greatest, while pipe has been used in the outer yards. Sheeted areas feature in the working area, and the ramp entrances to the shed.
“I included a double bugle lane way so I can do treatments off shears or post crutching while using the other race to fill the shed,’’ Ian said.
“Without compromising the strength of the yards, there are lots of gates, including a set of diamond gates, so sheep can be moved easily between yards.’’
Ian and Diana calve 630 Poll Hereford cows plus followers, and lamb 3500 Primeline Maternal composite ewes on their 1400ha property, Spring Valley. In the late 1990s, the farm enterprise ran up to 17,000 Merinos, focusing on wool cut per hectare and achieving a low cost of production per kilogram of wool. A combination of low wool prices and a growing seedstock herd, Wirruna Poll Herefords, resulted in the Locke’s seeking an easily managed sheep enterprise with the ability to dovetail with the cattle in 2004.
The primeline maternal composite ewe flock is now run at an annual average stocking rate of 17 DSE/ha with an emphasis on kilograms of lamb per hectare. Spring Valley is a long, narrow property, running 8km from front to back boundary.
A second set of sheep yards 5km from the new yards had been used for most jobs.
“We were avoiding doing any work in the front (old) yards unless it was absolutely necessary,’’ Ian said. “The new yards have given us more options to run sheep at the front of the place, saving on moving stock and adding to our grazing flexibility.
“It has done no harm to the balance sheet – if someone was to buy this place the new yards are a real plus but the ongoing efficiency and timeliness of jobs is also important.
“Now we have a good set of yards, we are done with the grief in so many ways.’’
Ian and Diana are now embarking on a third set of ProWay yards – to handle 45-50 head of cattle and featuring a three way draft, sheeted V race and CIA crush.
“Bad yards equal bad tempers – life is so much more pleasant these days.”