By Patrick Francis
Inventions competitions are more about re-thinking an approach than coming up with a completely novel piece of equipment or technology. The 2012 Sheepvention inventions competition highlighted this. The major prize winner, ProWay’s Sheep Bulk Handler is a classic example. It is an approach to holding sheep still in a race so they can be expected and or treated without stress to themselves or the operator. While many race handlers have been entered in the competition since it started in 1979, this is the first one (which does not involve a conveyor) to lift a group of sheep off their feet at one time, completely immobilizing them.
New Zealand inventor Wayne Perkins also had a “light bulb” moment when he realized that by simply running the sheep the opposite way through his race handler, the unit with a few simple alterations could also be used for crutching.
This year the Inventions committee introduced a new section to the competition for primary and secondary school children. They were asked to submit prototype and working inventions and the idea was enthusiastically embraced. All the entries were well thought out and demonstrated the children’s enthusiasm for developing solutions for common problems.
A particularly worthy milestone was celebrated during the 2012 Awards presentations when Sheepvention president Rob Hartwich presented one of the events stalwarts Rob Stewart with a plaque in recognition of “…his foresight in the foundation of Sheepvention and his dedication to its success” as a committee volunteer since 1979. As well, the committee recognized Rob’s particular dedication to the inventions competition by renaming the major invention award as the “R.F. Stewart Major Award”.
Low stress bulk sheep handling
A new way of thinking about sheep imobilisation attracted the Sheepvention judges at the 2012 inventions competition and resulted in ProWay Livestock Equipment Wagga Wagga NSW winning the Novartis Animal Health R.F. Stewart major award. According to the company’s stockyard designer Andrew McFarland some sheep businesses have been looking for a less stressful method of holding a large number of sheep at a time for routine treatments such as drenching, backlining, vaccinating and mouthing. The conventional method of walking back and forth down races and fighting with sheep ducking their heads under or jumping over the animals in front of them adds fatigue to the work for operators and stress to the sheep. ProWay’s solution is ingenious. It’s Sheep Bulk Handler allows sheep easy access down the 0.85m wide race and then lifts all the animals off the ground to a comfortable working height for the operator. The handler’s floor is covered with what is best described as a horizontal chain ladder. When the race is full the “ladder” is lifted with an electric motor, the sheeps legs fall between the bars and within seconds the animals are suspended and fully immobilised. Without their feet touching anything the animals become submissive, there is no diving or jumping to move away. The Sheep Bulk Handlers comes in 6m and 10m models either permanent or mobile. The 6m no mobility unit is priced around $14,000. Contact: Andrew McFarland 1300 655 383, firstname.lastname@example.org www.proway.com.au
Ewe and lamb mothering-up pen
Enthusiastic Barooga NSW farm inventor Barry Bennett has made what he considers are important improvements for a paddock ewe and lamb mothering-up pen. The pen idea was the major prize winner at the 2011 Hamilton P & A Society Sheepvention inventions competition. Barry’s developments include shorter mesh panels so instead of just four sides his pen has eight sides making it far smaller to fold up and store on a quad bike or ute. The smaller panels also allow for the new born lamb to be held safely in a ‘mini’ pen while the ewe is put into the large pen. These mesh lamb pens are mostly used to prevent ewes running away from their lamb after assisted births. If the ewe is confined with the lamb(s) it will mother up. It is also helpful when a ewe is inclined to walk away from the birthing area with just one of a set of twins or triplets. Another feature Bennett has incorporated into the pen is four tread in pegs to help stablise it. The pen has a 1.6m diameter is 0.9m high and weighs about 12 kg. His recommended price is $250. Contact: Barry Bennett 03 5873 4267, email@example.com
Irrigation slosher saves soil
When water is released through irrigation stops, soil erosion usually occurs around the outlet. Barooga NSW farm inventor Barry Bennett was asked by a neighbour if he could find a way of stopping the soil erosion. His solution was simple, a workshop rubber floor mat. By adding chains for securing it to the stop and some rubber baffles for breaking the water’s force he says the irrigation slosher stops erosion. He estimates the slosher would cost around $70. Contact: Barry Bennett 03 5873 4267, firstname.lastname@example.org
Remote control drawbar pin
It’s a constant pain-in-the-neck when coupling a machine to a tractor – having to get off to drop the pin through the drawbar, or alternative asking another person to do it. And that adds a safety risk to the task. It was a problem inventor Barry Bennett has been working to solve for the last 12 months and he seems to have done it with the remote control drawbar pin. Using readily available components such as car boot latch, magnets and garage door remote controller, Bennett has designed a way for the tractor driver to drop in the pin without moving off the seat. The remote pin dropper uses a 12 volt battery which has a life of about 100 drops before recharging. It has a manual operation pin as an alterative to the remote controller. The whole device is easily uncoupled off the drawbar when not required. Bennett estimates the unit would cost around $400 if in commercial production. Contact: Barry Bennett 03 5873 4267, email@example.com
Can hold it
Ever wondered what to do with those excess insulated can drink holders found in show bags. Griffith NSW inventor Greg McCarten came up with an idea for others to copy. Fix a magnet to the base of the holder and it becomes a great way of securing spray cans of lubricants like RP7 and Penetrene close to the action when working on machines.
Recycled plastic sheep yard panels
Recycled plastic has entered a new market with its incorporation into lightweight sheep yard panels and gates by New Zealand inventor Wayne Perkins. By manufacturing panel and gates splitters (holders) Perkins has come up with a new way of constructing light weight races, and pens for working and holding sheep. A feature of the 6mm panel is that it can be bent to contruct curves as required for races leading in sheep handlers or weigh boxes. Pins through the splitters hold the panel and the gates simply slide up and down, no hinges required. Panels are made in 6 and 9mm plastic, are 0.95m high and 1.25 and 1.50m long. Prices start at $105. Contact Wayne Perkins, Dunedin NZ, firstname.lastname@example.org ; www.perkinz.com.au (He has an Australian distributor).
Rethink turns drenching race into crutching handler
Inventors have ‘light bulb’ moments when a new idea hits them and they wonder why it wasn’t done in the first place. This happened with Wayne Perkins and his commercial sheep drenching race. Recognised in the past at Sheepvention as an important innovation in sheep handling, Perkins new its practical short coming was that clients sometimes wanted to crutch sheep when drenching them, but it couldn’t be done in the unit. Last year it occurred to him that if the sheep entered the drenching race in the opposite direction (something which could be easily done by turning the race anti backing bristles around), the drafting door on the side could be modified slightly to become the access for crutching. The modifications have been made and the Crutching Drench Master race released. The modifications add around $600 to the race price which is around $3700. Contact Wayne Perkins, Dunedin NZ, email@example.com ; www.perkinz.com.au (He has an Australian distributor).
More precise trailer hook-up
Lining up the towing vehicle with a trailer is usually always a hit and miss affair, with plenty of frustration involved. But young Hamilto ninventor Rohan Slabbet has built what he calls the Spotter to provide a solution. It uses a series of connected and adjustable rods with the most vertical one giving the driver a sighter to where the tow hitch is. As the vehicle moves closer to the hitch it hits a cushioned striker plate which lowers the vertical sighter rod telling the driver the tow ball is in position. While reversing cameras are becoming more common on sedan vehicles, they do have problems with mud and dust when mounted on farm vehicles. Slabbet’s solution uses conventional engineering which is likely to have a place for some time yet. Contact: Rohan Slabbert 0400 383 329
Simpler animal information gathering
A Melbourne based technology company has put individual animal data capture into the hands of commercial sheep producers. Robert Wild, Sapien Technology Burwood Vic, contends the Pedigree Scan unit he has developed replaces most of the costly hardware associated with in-paddock monitoring of livestock. Individual animal monitoring software has been developed by the Sheep Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) to enable ewes and lambs equipped with ear radio frequency tags to be matched based on their close association as they walk past a scanner positioned in race near a water point or feeder. Wild says while the software enables around 90% accuracy for pedigree recording, it also means commercial farmers can use it to identify their most productive ewes. But the problem has always been the amount of hardware required to operate a paddock positioned scanner, in particular supplying power. His pedigree scan unit is a RFID tag panel reader which will constantly collect data over 7 days without attention. It has a high tech battery and software features which ensure power is not being used when not needed, such as at night sleep mode. Wild estimates Pedigree Scan will retail for under $3000. Contact: Robert Wild 0427 790 212, www.sapien.com.au
Dual action sheep pour-on
A new method of formulating the sheep parasite control chemical abermectin has enabled Coppers Animal Health produce a single pour-on treatment that will control susceptible populations of both internal worms and external lice. According to the company’s veterinary technical manager Dr Jane Morrison, the new aqueous micellar formulation with the trade name “Maverick” took 10 years to develop in Australiaand is a world first for sheep parasite control. Morrison pointed out to the Sheepvention inventions judges that the product must be applied with the correct equipment and technique to ensure the active ingredient passes around the sheep’s skin to control lice as well as moving internally for worms. It can only be used within 24 hours of shearing and Morrison suggests that an internal worm resistance test should be conducted before using it to ensure no resistance is present to abermectin. “Maverick” has a 21 day meat withholding period and a 28 day export slaughter interval. Contact: Coopers www.coopersanimalhealth.com.au
Stick reader with “the lot”
Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) tag stick readers are a specialist instrument to read electronic tags. The device has been given a new more extensive animal management role with Tru-Test’s new XRS stick reader. According to Geoff Ross the XRS has become a management tool as well as a reader with the incorporation of data matching and interpretation software. Data about individual animals can be pre-loaded or customised so the operator can read additional information about an animal as it is scanned. Information such as pregnancy status, treatment withholding periods can be flagged on the screen. And there are plenty of added extra features: it has a vibrating handle as well as lights to alert for tag reads; duplicate read discard option; 19 hours battery operation and fast recharge; water and dustproof; continuous read for scanning down a race full of sheep; last six digits displayed in larger type, Bluetooth for wireless roaming while still connected to weigh scale indicator or other device such as a bar code printer. Ross says the company has just the one model with all the features packed in with a recommended $2000 price. Contact: Tru-Test Pty Ltd 1800 641 324 www.trutest.com.au
What is Sheepvention
The Hamilton P&A Society Sheepvention inventions competition is one of the feature events of the Sheepvention field days which has been running since 1979. It is held on the first Monday and Tuesday in August each year. Entry is open to all inventors in a range of categories associated with sheep handling as well as farm machinery, technology, environment, and gadgets. Patrick Francis has been a judge of the inventions competition since 1991. Contact: Sheepvention www.hamiltonshowgrounds.com.au