An automated sheep feeder designed to deliver a controlled maintenance ration at pre-set times and reduce mismothering has won the 2018 Henty Agri-Innovators Award.
The Shepherd was designed and entered by Justin Dunn, “Thunder Valley’’, Temora, and drew much public interest during the Henty Machinery Field Days on September 18-20.
The award was presented by HMFD director Matt Noll to Mr Dunn on Wednesday, September 19.
The solar powered feeder has a programmable timer and sensor, with a buzzer alarm sounding to alert the sheep when the feeding period has begun.
Mr Dunn runs a 1000 head lamb feedlot and a flock of Australian Whites with a cattle and cropping operation.
His design of the automated sheep feeder is in the final stages of development following trials of a prototype with feeding a maintenance ration to ewes and lambs this season.
The 18m long feeder features a 1.7 cubic metre grain storage bin and is capable of supporting a density of approximately 200 lambs at the trough.
The feeder is equipped with proximity switches to prevent overfilling of the feed trough, and a corrugated roof runs the full length of the tray as weather protection.
Mr Dunn said the amount of grain used and the time spent feeding created by the auto feeder was a leap forward for his family in their farming practice.
He paid tribute to Scott Blackwell, Blackwell’s Engineering, Temora, for assistance with the sheep feeder.
“It has been great to talk to producers at the field days about how it might suit their production and how they do their feeding,’’ he said.
“I can learn so much by talking to producers and being out there.’’
Highly commended in the Agri-Innovators Award was a trailing spray unit entered by Keith Smith, Milvale, NSW.
The entries had to meet the criteria of having a practical on-farm application, be based on an original idea of the entrant and not be in full scale production at the time of entry.
The award was judged by HMFD Co-operative members Joshua Maher, Sheree Hamson and Eron Thompson at the Henty Machinery Field Days on September 19.
Mrs Hamson said the cost and time savings plus reduced grain wastage of The Shepherd were impressive.
“The price of grain this year is high so you don’t want to be wasting any and still getting good lamb weights,’’ she said.
“Not only is it useful for getting lambs started and finished, but it is efficient at automating trail feeding without an operator having to be there.
“It is innovative and clever in design – there are no shy feeders or mismothering.
“Grain can be introduced slowly, reducing metabolic issues – this feeder can deliver 50 grams/head for the first day and gradually increase the amount to the full ration.’’
Judge Joshua Maher said the labor savings created by The Shepherd were the key.
“It doesn’t require mains power making it ideal for pastoral and remote locations,’’ Mr Maher said.
“The bin only needs topping up once a week and it can feed 200 head of sheep.
“It’s about having all the sheep at the feeder at the same time so there are no stragglers missing out.
“It is highly suitable for changing rations over from oats to higher starch grains.’’