Well-designed handling systems can make a huge difference to labour requirements and stress (both animal and worker).

In this article, we share some handling design tips from Australia and New Zealand, which were captured during the SheepNet Oceania tour in 2018. These farms had great scale, therefore the handling systems had to be well thought through for labour efficiency.

SRUC is part of SheepNet network, with colleagues from the Hill and Mountain Research Centre near Crianlarich, from the Animal Welfare team in Penicuik and from SAC Consulting Beef and Sheep Select.

By Claire Morgan-Davies, SRUC

To encourage animals through a race, a simple hock bar placed in the raceway was one of the tips from a farm in the South Island of New Zealand. The animals will follow through and step over the bar, but will find it much harder to step backwards. This very simple method will help to keep your animals moving smoothly through the system.

A plastic bag or flag on a stick does not sound particularly innovative, but one of the Landcorp farms in New Zealand found it particularly beneficial to keep sheep moving through the system. The workers expend less energy than having to make noises to keep sheep moving and the animals would find this less stressful. This farm had also designed its sheep pens so that sheep moved from dark spaces into lighter areas, as the sheep prefer to move.

Finally, a moving gate from an Australian farm was voted the all-time favourite by all the SheepNet stakeholders. The gate can be hitched up on its axis, and lowered behind a group of sheep in the rounder. The sheep can be put through the race without being stressed or pushed around, and the farmer can move the animals faster and on their own if necessary. A video of the gate can be viewed on our website: http://www.sheepnet.network/node/160. Any ideas that make life easier are always worthwhile – we hope some of their ideas will be beneficial to you.

More information is available on the online SheepNet knowledge reservoir (www.sheepnet.network). You can also join the network to receive newsletters and register to upcoming workshops and see Twitter (@SheepNetEU) and Facebook (SheepNetEU) for regular updates. SheepNet received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.