Roughly half as many workers are required to manage goats or sheep with this ingenious U-shaped handling facility or kraal, with an alley, crush, and various sorting pens. In addition, most of the kraal was built from scrap.
Every minute counts at the flourishing mixed farming Orange River enterprise run by the Bothas near Prieska in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The small livestock section, which makes up 28% of the farm, plays an important role in their diversification so being able to easily handle and care for about 3 000 sheep in their feedlot is crucial.
The inspiration for the handling pen on Johan Botha’s farm, that he runs along with his sons, Jan-Philip and Johan Jnr, came from the internet. After searching for an improvement to their existing kraal, Jan-Philip came upon an Australian website. They then adapted the U-shaped structure with an alley all the way around, a crush, and various sorting pens to suit their own conditions. It also makes provision for a modern electronic scale.
Previously the Bothas used a wide crush in which the animals were weighed in groups; work that required at least five people. In the new kraal, it is only necessary for two workers to herd the sheep and one extra worker if lambs have to be weighed, medically treated and data captured.
Second-hand material, such as wind pump pipes and irrigation pipes, was used. They manufactured the system’s almost 30 gates themselves from available scrap. Some of the anchor poles and corrugated-iron had to be purchased new and for this reason, Jan-Philip can’t say exactly how much the kraal cost. However, a similar kraal, new, would set you back about R150 000.
HOW IT WORKS
• Two entrances. The sheep approach from two directions in the handling pen, after which they move in a clockwise direction in the corrugated-iron enclosed alley. From the feedlot, the sheep move through gates through the handling point (below left on the sketch). Sheep that have been bought from other breeders are herded in from the bottom right of the kraal from the loading bay alongside.
• Go with the flow. The corrugated-iron sheeting on the crushes prevents the sheep from seeing their surroundings. “The sheep cannot see through to other pens and keep moving forward with the flow. If the front animal moves, all the others follow,” says Jan-Philip. About 100 to 120 sheep can be managed at a time.
• Different pens. The alley that runs around the kraal allows the handlers to herd animals into any of the inner pens. One-hundred-and-20 animals fit easily into any of the receiving pens (9m x 9m in size).
• Weighed in the crush. The main purpose is to move the sheep through the U-shaped alley that is enclosed with corrugated iron, to pass through the crush with the scale. An electronic sensor at the scale records the data of the individual animals for processing on a computer.
• Feedlot or market? The processed sheep can either be led back to the feedlot, or, if they are to be sold, to the loading bay at the bottom of the structure.
- The sheep move through the left-hand side entrance gate at the bottom, past the alley and left through a swing gate into the first pen.
- After this, a corrugated-iron covered swing gate at the U-shaped bend is opened and the animals begin making their way to the scale.
- In the middle of the U-shaped bend is a simple guillotine gate to assist the flow of sheep as it is lowered behind a group.
- The U-shaped alley improves the natural flow of the animals.
- After the last corrugated-iron covered swing gate, the crush narrows to force the animals to move one by one through the scale.
- The narrow crush – about 20cm wide – prevents the lambs from turning around.
- On either side of this, the system has crushes of about 58cm wide. These are used for the management of ewes and the dosing of larger groups of sheep, among other things. One crush is filled, and while the farmer doses this group, the handlers can fill the next crush.
- The adjustable plates of a V-shaped crush (V-drafter) prevents stubborn sheep from turning around. It is 20cm at the top and 10cm at the bottom.
- The receiving pens are useful as different groups of sheep can be processed at the same time. This simplifies the sorting according to weight and sex, among other things.
INDISPENSABLE AT WEANING TIME
The processing kraal is indispensable once the ewes’ lambs have been weaned, usually at an average weight of 20kg each. The newcomers’ intake weight is established before they are placed in the feedlot. Their growth progress is checked every two weeks to resolve any issues in good time.
Jan-Philip and his team use an automatic, electronic system that records the information of each individual animal as they move past the scale, such as the weekly weight and weight-gain.
ENQUIRIES: Jan-Philip Botha, email: firstname.lastname@example.org