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Technology weighs in for efficient drafting


For Alister Donald timing is everything over early spring as his winter purchased lambs come to finishing weight and moving them through at their optimal weight becomes an almost daily demand.

Farming near Geraldine, Alister and his wife Michelle had been using a Gallagher W610 scale system coupled to their ever-reliable Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter for the past five years. They were examining what their options were to upgrade a system that had over 50,000 lambs through it in that time.

With spring growth accelerating and lambs gaining 2-3 kg of liveweight a week each, weighing is a critical part of his business, and identifying lambs over weight as important as finding those not making weigh targets.

“The Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter has proven ideal for moving them into their bands. It’s important we keep them consistent and don’t get mixed across weight ranges when we are sending this many this regularly at this time of year.”

The Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter is usually set to draft off the “lights” coming under 43kgs, the upcoming 43-44kg line, the 44-50kg kill weight line and the “overweight” 50kg-plus lambs.

Year in year out the drafter has performed consistently, well set up under cover on concrete in an ideal drafting environment.

Alister had discussed with Gallagher Territory Manager Mark Maitland about the options for upgrading his scale head system, and Mark suggested he consider the company’s latest release, the TW range.

Only released this year the TW weigh scale range was developed with farmers’ needs firmly in mind. It has a functional touchscreen interface delivering an easily navigable pathway, from the moment it is turned on to reviewing detailed weigh data.

A demonstration from Mark of the TW’s capabilities convinced Alister to make the move up to a TW-1 Weigh Scale.

Over 3000 weighs and a month later he is more than convinced he made the right choice investing in weigh technology that has made a regular and precise job a lot simpler, and more informed.

“The TW-1 is really easy to set up, you can see how it is quite similar to a smartphone to use, and everyone has one of those these days.”

Alister likens the TW-1 to a notebook – at the end of the drafting exercise he has all the information he needs in front of him, is easily accessible and in a format that he can use straight away.

“The scales will give us a running total of the numbers of sheep that fall in to our weigh bands, averages and totals, the statistics are all right there to see.”

A key feature of the TW’s design is the touchscreen interface and it has proven to be everything its designers intended for Alister.

“Michelle can see it from 10-12 metres away down the drafting race, it is very clear and makes it very easy to use.”

He has appreciated how easy the TW-1 is to set up, and knows after only a few weeks use there are other features he is still to fully utilise.

“But it is very easy to find out where to go if you have any problems, you can just push a button if you have a query and the answer is there to see.”

He also appreciates the easily to navigate pathways designers have built into the TW-1, ensuring that he has not needed a degree in computer programming to get the machine up and running.

“My son Jordan was saying I should opt for another brand when I was looking at my options, but I think he is well convinced now that this was a good decision, it’s the bee’s knees.”

Alister opted for the entry level TW-1 scale and believes the investment has been a relatively low cost to make a significant leap in upgrading his weigh system’s capability.

That value has only grown in recent weeks as early spring lamb prices hit $7/kg, meaning knowing lambs’ optimal weights is more valuable than ever.

“We are targeting them to be 21.5kg-22kg CW, or 45-50kg LW, and any that are getting too heavy, we need to pull them out sooner than later to still get good money for them.”

The Sheep Auto Drafter and TW-1 have integrated well and Alister is also looking forward to hooking the TW-1 up to his cattle weigh system where he is taking yearling cattle and targeting them for 600kg-plus for finishing.