After being crowned overall runners up in the inaugural Mid-Lachlan flock ewe comp in January, Graham and Adam Wallace, “Melrose”, Wattamondara, were told their sheep yards were some of the best the judges had ever seen.
Starting in 2005, the father and son team began developing their yards in order to improve safety and increase efficiency. A revamp in August last year saw the completion of fully covered yards, with an internal lighting set up throughout that allows the Wallace’s to complete sheep work at all hours.
For Graham, who has struggled with skin cancer, the full roof covering allows him a great level of flexibility.
“It is a great help to keep out of the sun. I like to get my sheep work done early in the morning. If I happen to get up at at 3am and I have sheep work to do I can get in and do it,” he said.
The Wallace’s yards design also incorporates a four-way split system which allows sheep to be moved automatically to different areas of the yard.
“It’s designed so that the main drag into our yards feeds to four different operations,” Graham said.
“The first one, the sheep move straight and up into the shearing sheds. The second veers up into a double raceway into our sheep handler or sheep scanning. The third one goes around into our drenching, vaccinating races. The fourth one goes direct into the conventional three-way draft,” he said.
The yard redesign, completed by ProWay Livestock Equipment, has huge impacts on efficiency.
“From start to finish the entire job can be a one-man operation. Since we have had the yards set up I have never had to call anyone to give me a hand to draft or anything like that, they just flow right through.”
The yards can hold as many as 2000 sheep at one time. A further laneway system is currently being designed, allowing sheep to be moved out and around the side of the yards if the volume of sheep is too great.
“The lane will be integrated with our other yards so we can easily shuffle sheep around. Say if we are weighing crossbred lambs, if we get choked up this new lane will allow access to space in the rest of our other yards.”
A fan and water system to reduce dust is also in the design pipeline.
The Wallace’s shear about 11,000 Merinos, with an average flock micron of 18.3, and their ewes cut an average seven kilograms of wool.
Taking advantage of high profits to improve facilities
Drew Chapman, West Plains/Hinesville Merino stud, Delegate, has judged at over 80 shows and flock ewe competitions since 1984 across Australia and overseas, and said the Wallace’s yards on “Melrose”, Wattamondara, were among the best he had seen.
“The facilities here are magnificent, first class. There are lots of yards with innovative designs, but in this case the basics are done so well. You are out of the heat and out of the wet. The structure stands out with it’s height and the amount of light. You have the capacity to work at odd hours and shear in short day light,” he said.
Mr Chapman said with sheep profitability the best it had been in 30 years, producers have a fantastic opportunity to use current high profits to upgrade facilities.
“We have an opportunity to make stock handling easier. Stock is only difficult to handle in poor facilities. Sheep yards are our offices, so why are we willing to operate in sub-par facilities?”