Hot off the press! Precision yard designs (The Land)

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PRECISION, animal psychology and intergenerational change are driving interest and implementation of new and improved yard systems in sheep and cattle production systems.

Atlex founder and senior designer Ian Crafter, Dubbo, recently spoke at the Australian National Field Days Sheep Field Day on April 19, about importance of good yard design and the evolution of the sheep yard and how animal psychology and precision technology continues to evolve the modern yard.

He said it is important to use precision technologies and consider animal psychology techniques when designing a yard system.

“It comes down to getting the design correct with millimeter accuracy, so livestock believe they are always winning while doing the functions you require,” Mr Crafter said.

He said a lot of people are spending big money on precision technologies to weigh, draft and drench animals but all those stock handling machines are only as good as how easy it is to get the animals into them.

“People spend money on a $20,000 machine, but they still can’t get the animals into it,” he said.

“In some cases people just “plonk” a yard design somewhere near the shed and there no real animal psychology used as to the movement or orientation to incorporate other features.

“It’s about getting the fundamental rights and that’s where the precision and consideration of animal psychology techniques that we have developed over the last 34 years come in.”

With up to 30,000 hours of yard design experience that spans across some 5000 sets of yards, Mr Crafter’s business has progressed to now use Swiss technology in the means of Robotic Theodolites to aid in the creation of the most accurate, functional and efficient yard systems.

“We customise our designs to each individual location. No two set ups are the same, everyone’s situation is
different. So many little mistakes make an enormous difference and that is a 50 year problem if you get it wrong,” he said.

“The issue is its there for 50 years, it is not a short term problem. Saving money initially can cost a fortune later.”

Mr Crafter believe producers need to have a paradigm shift in their thinking of how sheep are managed because they are very profitable if farmers get the scale right, and they are lower risk than cropping.

He said the most important thing is to make it attractive to young people to be interested in sheep or cattle.

“They won’t be interested if there is no investment in making things easier like we have already seen with machinery. Machinery is comfortable. If people work in yards that don’t have a good design, it will be hard, the struggle will continue and people won’t come back to the yards,” Mr Crafter said.

Increase in money spent on yards

IAN Crafter, Atlex, Dubbo, believes more people are investing in yard infrastructure with economics a major factor driving the change of focus and investment.

The risk of investment in new infrastructure is lower than that of machinery and the overall returns of investment are extended over a 50 year period. “A good yard systems improves the value of the property, whilst machinery
depreciates, loses value and needs to be replaced every five years.”

Intergenerational change also fuels the increase in investment, as farmers are looking for a 50 year investment for their kids and grandkids.

“Younger people returning to the farm and clever older farmers want a good set of yards that they can operate by themselves, safely, that will last two generations.”

REFERENCE: The Land, p.80, Thursday 26 April 2018, by Hannah Powe

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