The ability to draft feedlot or containment fed lambs into weight categories ready for processing without using any labour is a benefit of the award winning The Shepherd Auto Drafter.
Temora prime lamb lot feeder Justin Dunn, The Shepherd Ag Pty Ltd, was highly commended in the 2023 Henty Machine of the Year for his auto drafter on September 19.
HMFD Machine of the Year judge Warren Scheetz said the auto drafter automatically weighs and drafts lambs in the feedlot, saving time, labour and increasing animal welfare.
“Producers want the animals to be as stress free as possible to put on the weight and this eliminates the work for the producer, and also electronically moves the animals from one pen to another once they reach a certain weight,” Mr Scheetz said.
Justin Dunn said the data captured by the drafter was sent back in real time to the producer’s mobile phone 24 hours a day.
“This unit is built by ourselves in-house at Temora, everything from the software development to the steel fabrication,” Mr Dunn said.
“Henty was our launch so it is now ready for people to put it out there in the wild – we will go through a 12-month pre-commercial deal so we can work closely with those clients to make sure the machine settles in.
“At Temora we have a privately run research and development unit where we hone all the equipment we sell. For the past 12 months we have had the auto drafter working in our own commercial feedlot.”
Mr Dunn breeds commercial Aussie White and Sheepmasters, along with finishing second cross trade lambs in the feedlot.
“Skilled labour is very difficult in the ag sector these days and affordability of those who do have the skills is a challenge. Facing a drought, the prospect of feeding and bringing sheep into close containment where they are monitored is key,” he said.
“We are developing our systems, so it is straight monitoring with low stress handling and less workflow. We are managing the glycogen levels in the animal, resulting in better carcase quality.”
The sheep passively walk onto the drafter of their own accord, attracted by a lick block.
“We found a side effect was marketing as the lambs are going into pens of particular weight groups, we know at any particular time how many sheep we have in each weight band. Right now, it is competitive and if a processor contract opens, we can look at our phone and know comfortably how many lambs we are prepared to book.
“We still use a traditional weighing system for onboarding sheep into the feedlot and the final draft to get the maximum number of lambs into the top of the grid.
“This particular machine is about low stress handling while they go right through the feeding process and we are monitoring exactly how many lambs are progressing and how fast. We can graph trajectories and predict how many sheep will be ready at any particular point.”
While most of these types of drafters are air operated, the Shepherd Feedlot Auto Drafter is solar powered, retails from $8000 and comes with complete technical support.