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Shearing Shed & Sheep Yards | Patanga Park | Buffalo, Victoria

In partnership with son Peter, Andrew and Jane Carmichael combine a beef and lamb trading operation, across adjacent properties in Buffalo, Southern Gippsland, Victoria.

The property ‘Patanga Park’ located just north of Wilson’s Promontory, has an average annual rainfall of 1,000mm. The sheep arm of the business is particularly unique to the region which is predominantly dairy country:

“We grow out around 3,000 Merino X Dorset and White Suffolk lambs. Generally, we buy lambs at 35 kg in September; shear and fatten over six months. The trade lambs are sold to Coles over 65kg to ALC for export.”

“The lambs we have on at the moment were trucked over from WA. Logistically, it’s further, but economically, lambs are landed below the equivalent local prices per head with access to higher volumes of quality stock in a single purchase so it’s much easier from a management perspective.”

“In terms of the cattle arm of the business, we run approximately 1,200 trade heifers which are a mix of Hereford and Angus”.

The Carmichaels designed their facility to comfortably and efficiently work trade lambs in the high rainfall Southern Gippsland Region of Victoria.

Owner Andrew & son Peter are all smiles in their new shearing facility at Patanga Park.

“With strong commodity prices, favourable interest rates and the instant asset write-off scheme, there’s probably never been a better time to invest in good facilities.”

Originally the Carmichaels were considering an auto drafter for their existing sheep yards, but after discussing options and design features with ProWay Stock Yard Designer Michael Barrett, the decision was made to design and build a new sheep yards and three stand shearing shed.

For Andrew, the government’s asset depreciation scheme and favourable interest rates were also influential in the process to install the state-of-the-art facility.

On top of the design, supply and construction, a lot of thought and planning goes into building a new set of sheep yards and shearing shed. Incorporating existing holding pens, laneways, truck and vehicle access, services and earthworks were all key to pulling of a facility which is built to last multiple generations.

Ventilation, lighting and FRP Grating were key design aspects the Carmichaels focused on. 

Essential: Getting the Design Right

Site foundation, drainage, insulation, and airflow were important considerations for the wool shed and the decision was made to build a large skillion to cover the working area of the sheep yards.

Andrew was clear on what they wanted in terms of efficient sheep flow through the yards and shed, while comfort and usability was a significant consideration.

“We wanted a facility we can work year-round. At certain times of the year, we expect a shower every day. The roof over the working area gives us reliability, dry holding capacity and makes stock work much easier.

As with all sheep operations, cutting down on operating costs is an ongoing consideration. For Andrew who worked on large stations as a young man, throwing extra labour at poor facilities to get the job done is not feasible this day and age.

“With old or poorly designed yards, you’d have to throw more staff at the job and force stock to move where they don’t want to. That’s not sustainable. If you look at the running costs of multiple staff, cutting back on labour actually pays for the yards over the years.”

The use of timber throughout the wool room makes for a unique and comfortable workspace.

“Mick at ProWay was excellent. We had a number of Zoom meetings to get the design exactly right. I think one meeting went for 4 hours! He was very good in terms of taking on our ideas and incorporating them into the design.”

After they made the decision, they worked with ProWay to get the design right,

“We spoke to Mick Barrett from ProWay who designed the yards with us. We wanted a design that could incorporate the existing cattle yards as holding pens and work mobs of around 1,500 trade lambs. We also wanted to incorporate a three-stand wool shed. In the end we decided to go with a Raised Board Sawtooth design which the shearers have been happy with.”

Unfortunately, Mick was unable to visit the site due to Covid travel restrictions. Measurements of laneways, existing yards as well as the new yards sighting were done with aerial photography and Andrew’s on-site assistance. The Carmichaels then met with him via Zoom to plan a design which incorporated everything they wanted.

Andrew and Peter were able to contribute and watch the yards take shape without having to leave the home office.

“We could see Mick moving elements in the CAD program and we could say, move that here or stretch that over there.”

Importantly, the Carmichaels could draw on an extensive library of design features and innovative approaches from other sheep yards, sheds, and equipment which helped them create the best outcome for their operation.

Andrew opted for a skillion roof with his shed to provide weather protection all year round.

Sheep Yards and a Shearing Shed: From Design to Construction

The Carmichaels decided on a skillion-roofed, gabled-structure for the shed, which would cover the working area of the sheep yards.

“The design of the yards allows the woollies to go up under the skillion. Once shorn, they’re easily processed back through the ProWay Bulk Handler without having to move anything out of the way. We wanted sheep work to be as efficient as possible to make it easy on us and get them back on pasture in a timely manner.”

Once settled on a final design, ProWay’s Southern Area Representative, Tim Maher oversaw the site preparation and construction.

“Tim came across and pegged out the site and all the holes for the footings and posts. Over the construction phase he kept in contact with the ProWay contractors to make sure it all went smoothly.”

Andrew was impressed with the high standard of the outcome, attention to detail and how it all came together.

First run on the new ProWay Raised Sawtooth Board. 

“ProWay’s construction contractors were excellent and did a fantastic job with the yards and fitout, they really took pride in their work and the result is high quality.”

“ProWay’s construction contractors were excellent and did a fantastic job with the yards and fitout, they really took pride in their work and the result is high quality. With Covid restrictions in Victoria, there was a few uncertainties with getting the shed and yards built to schedule, but ProWay and the contractors worked to meet our shearing deadline and the whole project was completed on time.”

“We had Sam Bell and his building team ‘RedCon’ do all the carpentry work in the shed. There was a high attention to detail with the timber work and they ended up helping with the wool room floor which has come up really well.”

“Scott Grace built the sheep yards and he also did an excellent job getting everything installed on time and to a high standard. We have a large concreted working area which has come up well”

In the shearing shed holding pens, the Carmichaels decided on the Fibreglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) Grating, while the catching pens are sloped hardwood for an easier drag. Andrew believes it was a good decision.

“The FRP grating is fantastic, it’s probably about 30% dearer than timber but I think the benefits justify the investment. It’s fast to lay, very durable and sheep run well on it. It also stops a lot of light coming through which helps with flow in the shed.

“In terms of longevity, it will last a very long time. The grating holes are 30 mm x 30 mm squares which seem a good size for even small lambs to run on. We haven’t had any issues with feet getting stuck, even with really small lambs.”

The standout addition to their new setup however, was ProWay’s Sheep Bulk Handler.

The Best Addition to their Operation: ProWay’s Sheep Bulk Handler

Andrew recalls working large sheep stations in South Australia, where fighting big sheep in the race was par for the course.

“The Bulkie just takes all the stress out of the job for livestock and operator. You knock off feeling great and every animal gets an accurate treatment. They’re completely immobilised and they can’t crowd or burry their heads.”

The Sheep Bulk Handler cuts down on labour and makes sheep handling easier, Andrew says:

“Honestly it is an amazing piece of technology. It’s fantastic. Peter and I drenched and inoculated 500 lambs in an hour without breaking a sweat. It’s fast and easy to fill, but the best thing is you just aren’t buggered at the end of it.”

He believes that the ProWay Sheep Bulk Handler is a game-changer for sheep handling:

“The Bulkie opens stock work up to older generations and young people who may have otherwise struggled in a traditional race. In a traditional race, the physicality of it all can be too taxing for some operations such as drenching or tagging, but the Bulk Handler removes that stress. Anyone can use it and walk away feeling good.”

The ProWay Bulk Handler allows Andrew to efficiently work sheep at a safe working height. 

“The Bulkie just takes all the stress out of the job for livestock and operator. You knock off feeling great and every animal gets an accurate treatment. They’re completely immobilised and they can’t crowd or burry their heads.”

“We Look Forward to Using These Yards”

With installation complete and first shearing underway, the Carmichael family are pleased with the new yards and shearing shed:

“In well-designed facilities sheep just flow and that’s definitely the case here. Sheep flow around the bugle into the bulk handler and draft exceptionally well. Sheep also run up into the shed very easily.”

“ProWay and their construction crews have completed this facility to a very high standard. I’d definitely recommend ProWay, particularly the bulk handler, to anyone looking to improve their sheep handling. It’s been an excellent experience and we all now look forward to using the yards whenever we have a job to do.”

The ProWay Bulkie in action under the skillion roof. 

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