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Easy Sheep Management

Being profitable is a key to farming sustainability, but so is enjoying the work and being able to keep up with the physical demands of running the enterprise. Sheep management has a reputation for being plain hard work. As such, the adoption of any new management practice needs to consider the impact this will have on workloads. For example, raising stocking rates through pasture improvement can mean significant additional numbers of sheep to be managed.

Many opportunities exist to simplify and automate stock management, all of which can make running sheep more enjoyable.

Audit your infrastructure

There are many ways to improve infrastructure to make sheep work easier.

Laneways: paddock laneways can save huge amounts of time by enabling sheep to return to the paddock from the yards on their own. They also reduce the likelihood of mobs getting boxed when they are being moved.

Improved yard design: easy flow designs like properly sited bugle yards with double raised races can allow managers to draft with one dog and increase drenching throughput.

Sheep Handlers/Cradles: while these often don't increase throughput, they usually make many sheep handling tasks easier

Woolsheds: There are many improvements that can be made to woolsheds ranging from a complete rebuild incorporating a raised board with front fill catching pens, to just playing around with inexpensive innovations like better light and strategically placed mirrors.

Automatic technologies: increasing automation now allows walk-over weighing and auto-drafting of sheep in the paddock through initiatives such as the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre's "e-sheep™".

Train yourself

Most sheep producers train their own sheep dogs, but there are plenty who are unqualified to do so! A scrum of half trained dogs will never achieve what a well trained dog can do. If you aren't having success with your dogs, attend a dog training school. Similarly, low stress stock handling techniques can be more effective than noise and enthusiasm alone.

Signposts Signposts

Read

Managing Complex Systems – Preliminary Findings from Grain & Graze: learn more about integrated pest management, incorporating grazing cereals into your sheep enterprise, and the benefits of biodiversity on-farm. Download your  our copy of the report: Managing Complex Systems (6.5MB)

Books on training working dogs: titles include “Training and Working Dogs” by Scott Lithgow, “Working Dogs: Training for Sheep and Cattle” by Colin Seis and “Working Sheep Dogs” by Tully Williams. Browse many more titles and purchase your choice from your nearest bookshop.

Sheep - the simple guide to making more money with less work cereal zone: can be downloaded by clicking here (4.0 MB)

Sheep - the simple guide to making more money with less work high rainfall zone: can be downloaded by clicking here

View

Healthy and Contented Sheep module: procedure 11.5 includes tips on designing yards and other farm infrastructure to make the most of sheep behaviour.  View Procedure 11.5

Australian Sheepdog Workers’ Association: find links to state-based sheepdog associations, including links to sheepdog breeders, and training workshops and resources. Visit: www.asdwa.org.au/

Wool harvesting: find out more about new and safer shearing technology focused on better handpieces, anti-lock safety devices, shearing shed design, mobile crutching trailers and other useful technology to make wool harvesting as safe and as cost effective as possible. Visit: www.wool.com/on-farm-research-and-development/wool-harvesting-and-quality-preparation/

Precision Sheep Management: a system to help sheep producers use knowledge about the individual sheep within a flock to make decisions on management and marketing to improve across-flock performance and profit. Visit the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre: www.sheepcrc.org.au/wellbeing/measuring-recording-and-decision-making.php

Attend

Low stress stock handling courses emphasise mutually beneficial outcomes for stock and handlers regardless of yard design. Review Procedure 11.5 in “Healthy and Contented Sheep” and/or visit the following websites to find out more: