Friday, January 20, 2006

Handling facilities for sheep

There was a time when we worked about 3000 head with gates and T posts slapped together in whatever way seemed to make the most sense at the time, that and three healthy 20 year olds, two good horses and one extremely good dog.

Well, that was the far bank of a wide river of time. Here and now, one crippled fifty year old with occasional help from his bride needs to handle a small flock for the usual reasons. Worming, shearing, hoof trimming, vaccinations, and general doctoring.

The main idea that was used to handle a large number of sheep with minimal facilities was to crowd them together so they couldn’t move, then grab one and physically hold it so it could be worked on.

At first there were no facilities on the place, so we did just about the same thing, crowded them into a small pen and physically grabbed them. This works way better when 20 year olds do the grabbing, rather thank fifty year olds.

Then we set up a simple funnel shaped pen out of hog panels. A makeshift head gate was at the small end. This was not much better than nothing. Even a good head gate is less helpful with sheep than it is with cattle.

The next level of upgrade is what we have now. It is far from perfect but it is much better. Here is a diagram:

Rather than being designed this facility sort of “growed there”. It was mostly constructed from materials that were on hand.

Keep in mind that I am a strong paraplegic, wheelchair and all. Being able to do most of the work on a solid surface is important.
I get the beasties into the crowding tub through the small gate with a bribe of some shelled corn. Then I use the big gate to crowd them together.

The gate between the single file chute and the work pen is open. When one animal goes into the work chute the gate is closed, either by a helper (yes, dear), or I can use a Shepard’s crook to do it from outside the work pen. There is usually a small amount of corn in a bucket is the work pen to occupy the sheep while I get back in.

The sheep chooses which corner to hide in and I grab it. If I need to do much with it, the first thing I do is put a rope halter on it. I generally just hold it against my chest (give it a hug) and check it’s eyes and worm it. I keep tools and equipment in a bucket hanging on the wall where I can reach it from anywhere in the pen but the animals can’t knock it over.

I can put it’s head in the head gate if I need to. I do that to shear them for example.

To trim the front hoofs, I lift it up enough to set the front half of the beast in my lap. This makes the front hoofs easy to trim. I have yet to devise a way to trim the rear hoof that does not involve getting kicked senseless much of the time.

1 comment:

jen said...

thanks for this post. i'm a very new sheep owner and all the information i can get about handling facilities is a bonus. i have a hard time dreaming up my own innovations when it comes to things like layout so it's helpful to see what works for others.