A mechanical system is being developed which will deliver sheep to shearers, eliminating the catch and drag from the pen.
This minimises the chance of injury to the shearer and the sheep whilst also maximising productivity with significantly reduced handling times.
AWI Chairman Jock Laurie said it was a great opportunity for woolgrowers to see where their wool levies have been invested.
The unit prototype was on show at a demonstration day at Conargo in southern NSW.
"Shearing is the number one issue that woolgrowers talk to me about, and something I am familiar with as a grower myself," Mr Laurie said.
"It is critically important to get this sorted as quickly as we can.
"Every woolgrower's operation and setup are different, but what we managed to do at the demonstration day was showcase in one venue a range of options for growers to see what could fit into their own business."
Mr Laurie said feedback on the day indicated graziers and farmers in attendance were "encouraged" by what was on-show.
Past-AWI CEO Stuart McCulloch spoke about the innovation last year, when he said the unit would eliminate the time and energy shearers spend walking to the pen, catching the sheep and dragging to the stand.
"These negative impacts of the catch and drag are the motivation behind a new AWI project that is developing an alternative system in which sheep are delivered from a race directly to the shearer," Mr McCullough said.
The design aims to improve efficiency and safety for workers, enable quality wool preparation and provide minimal risk to the welfare of livestock.
Importantly, it is compatible with existing equipment, harvesting systems and skill sets.
The project is the brainchild of AWI's Stephen Feighan and SCAA Training's Glenn Haynes and is progressing well under the guidance of a number of highly experienced AWI Shearer Trainers including Shannon Warnest, Paul Oster and Wayne Hosie.
The design focuses on a "modular" concept in which portable singular shearing stands can be joined together to make a multi-stand shearing platform, which can be stored away after use.
Added design elements will allow for straight board or U-shape configuration.
Former world champion shearer Shannon Warnest, who initially came up with the tilting delivery unit concept, said everyone involved in the project was thrilled with the results.
"We've also made sure to get feedback from a number of other practical, experienced shearers and some growers who are looking to upgrade their sheds," Mr Warnest said.
"We've had a few people shaking their head when they first see it - but not for long."
The design incorporates a pneumatically powered race section on which the sheep is delivered to the shearer, removing the catch and drag from a pen.
Each modular unit will hold three sheep in a race at the back of the unit.
A dummy pen is fitted onto the end of the race to assist with the flow of the sheep.
When the shearer is ready for a sheep to be delivered, he/she presses a button and the section containing a sheep clamps the sheep securely and slides out onto the board towards the shearer.
The section then tilts the sheep into a position suitable for the shearer to then hold the animal.
The sheep is then mechanically released and slides the short distance to the shearing platform, at an angle suitable for the shearer to start shearing straight away.
Unlike upright shearing units, the shearer does not have to learn any new shearing technique or blow patterns with this system.
Once shorn, an angled shoot allows for simple release of the shorn sheep underneath the race - again without significant dragging or twisting.
By minimising the catch and drag, it is estimated that the system could save the typical shearer approximately 10 to 20 seconds per sheep, which on average could add up to about three-quarters of an hour each day.
Each modular one-stand unit will be able to be connected to other one-stand units to make a multi-stand shearing platform, the size of which depends on the number of shearing stands required.
Initial cost modelling shows the individual units to be available to growers for approximately $18,000, which would be a very attractive option when fitting out a shearing shed.
This has the potential to be reduced further with broader uptake from manufacturers.
Being easily portable, the modular units can be transported to other sheds, be that on the same or other properties.
They could be used in any multi-purpose machinery shed and can be relocated with a forklift when not in use.
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