Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? I’m so excited! I mentioned in an earlier post that this was in the works and I finally got it completed and ran the sheep through it yesterday.
Here are some pictures and then I will describe what it is and how it works:
My sheep are not so tame that I can simply walk up to them and work with them. I have to contain them in some way in order to give vaccinations, dose with wormers, weight them, check their body condition score, etc.
In the past, I hauled hog panels out to the pasture and created an enclosure where I worked with them. This was time consuming, tough on my back and not very efficient. As I mentioned in a blog post this March (Getting Organized…Hopefully…Yes!), I had the brainstorm to carve a small sheep handling area out of a corner of the barn. I included some pictures of the construction in a May blog post (Update on Organizing).
I may someday invest in gates and chutes made specifically for the purpose, but for now, I’m happy to try out this low cost option and see how it works, tweak it if necessary and save a lot of time over my old method while also keeping my sheep much more comfortable and reducing their stress.
I used hog panels and lumber already on hand. I did all of the construction myself, but also need to give my husband Chris a big thank-you for the custom channels he fabricated for me on the table saw and planer. I cut hog panels to 24″ width and they lift and lower beautifully (guillotine like) in these channels to allow one sheep at a time to move forward toward the enclosure with the scale.
During the test run yesterday, I weighed each sheep, wormed her with garlic juice, checked her body condition (all except the yearlings are a little on the pudgy side) and checked her eyelids using the Famacha method to get a sense of parasite load.
The facility worked great! It seemed to be intuitive for them. They moved through with ease. In the past, I have had trouble getting each sheep to step up onto the scale because the surface is different and they are concerned about their footing. But, in this arrangement, they see that by moving forward, they are moving closer to exiting the chute and so they stepped up for their turn without any trepidation.
The chute is a bit wide. 18″ is recommended, but my scale is 20″ and the hog panels have verticals on 8″ centers, so I had to go with a 24″ wide gate. Because the chute is a little too wide, the sheep were able to turn around and squeeze past one another. But, I was able to easily advance one sheep at a time with the guillotine lift gates. And, with repeated runs through the chute each time we “practice” with subsequent uses of the chute for shearing, vaccinating, etc. my flock will become more accustomed to it.
What a wonderful thing to have checked off my ‘get organized’ to do list!