Panel tells all on sheep auto-drafters

Sheep
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SHEEP are back in a big way. Producers who have stuck with sheep and those getting back to them are looking at ways to run a more efficient and productive operation.

SHEEP are back in a big way. Producers who have stuck with sheep and those getting back to them are looking at ways to run a more efficient and productive operation.

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To help achieve this aim, Kondinin Group put four of the most popular auto-drafters through their paces as part of its research into precision sheep management systems.

A test panel of farmers, researchers and other industry experts rated the auto-drafters on their accuracy and ease-of-use.

Kondinin Group research coordinator Toni Nugent says the test results will help producers choose the most suitable auto-drafter for their operation.

"The result is a complete buyer's guide to getting best-fit precision system for your operation," she said.

The expert test panel evaluated the Atlex AT3 auto sheep management handler, Gallagher Smartdraft 3-way auto drafter,Prattley 3-way auto drafter and the Racewell super sheep handler.

The panel found all auto-drafters tested were easy to operate and conducive to animal handling.

"Two indicators were evaluated and both rated highly for readability with large, easy to read displays," Mrs Nugent said. "However, sunlight reflection off the screen was seen as a possible problem."

The trailer-mounted systems allow easy transportation between locations, but panel members questioned the larger size of some units suggesting this could limit their use in certain yards.

The panel rated most operator manuals as average. They commented on the need for clear and concise diagrams combined with easy-to-understand explanations and a trouble shooting section.

It was important to maintain a continuous flow of sheep to ensure the efficient operation of the auto-drafting system with animal throughput time varying considerably between the four drafting systems evaluated.

Comments made by the test panel gave manufacturers the opportunity to further develop their products for the benefit of the producer.

"Manufacturers will take this feedback on board to make improvements if they are found to be lacking in certain areas," she said.

Precision sheep management offers producers increased accuracy in marketing, breeding and decision-making but requires significant investment.

"Before buying a sheep auto-drafter, producers need to consider their objectives for weighing and drafting to determine the most suitable system for their business," she said

Apart from considering the "functionality" of the systems, Mrs Nugent says it is important to think about "extras".

"Consider the availability of dealer service and whether the cost is included in the price of the system," she said.

"Ask about replacement parts, turnaround time for replacements and costings, and always check the warranty length, what is covered and what could void it."

Details: The full report is available free to Kondinin Group members. Non-members can buy a copy by contacting Kondinin Group 1800 677 761.

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