ONE set of hands still makes light work for Holbrook farmer Michael Gooden.
The design of his sheep yards means a one-man operation is still efficient, with many of the features included with single use in mind.
Mr Gooden and wife Ellie operate the 397-hectare "Canungra" just outside Holbrook in the Riverina, and run 1300 crossbred ewes.
Formerly a cattle property, Mr Gooden purchased the block in 2009, and had to start from scratch when installing infrastructure suited to a sheep operation.
The following year, a set of Proway yards were built on "Canungra".
"It was a good opportunity to do whatever we wanted, to start fresh," Mr Gooden said.
"Because it wasn't an upgrade we just looked at location and built it close to the existing cattle yards for extra holding pens."
With the long-term aim of building a shearing shed nearby, 15 cubic metres of concrete was laid and the yards were underway.
Mr Gooden said the yards were built close to the access lane to the farm and his main focus was on flexibility.
Featuring a five-way draft, his thoughts were on their functionality as a single-man operation and also looking further ahead.
"It's a compromise between expense and time, but with the draft in particular, I was definitely thinking ahead in terms of technology," Mr Gooden said.
"Looking toward electronic tags in sheep, there is room for an autodrafter if I decide to go that way."
The draft also feeds in to a number of pens, which means splitting mobs as they were rotationally grazed throughout the year was easy.
Another feature was a single marking race - and a gate that could be lifted using a rope, cutting time and labour.
"It's easy for me to get in and out of the race quickly. I'm confident I could run a few thousand ewes in the future and have plenty of room in the yards," he said.
Damien Halloway, Proway Livestock Equipment, Wagga Wagga, was the designer who worked on Mr Gooden's yards.
He said modern agriculture was about labour efficiency, and designing handling equipment should always aim to reduce labour.
"Labour is a double-edged sword, nowadays it's not only expensive but it is hard to source skilled staff," Mr Halloway said.
With technology a hot topic in the industry at present, Mr Halloway said catering for clients was based on individual operations.
"It's not only expanding in terms of stock numbers but also about how we want to process our stock," he said.
"Individual handling and data collection is becoming more mainstream, and with higher costs we scrutinise animals a lot more closely," he said.
"When designing working areas we allow for the inclusion of different handlers, which assist in the ease of individual management procedures and data collection, like weighing and scanning crates."
After working one-on-one with producers across the State and also internationally, Mr Halloway said what was once a "looming headache" for many producers, the view of electronic identification (EID) technology was changing.
"There is increasing utilisation of electronic identification to measure animal performance accurately and efficiently as well as assist in day to day tasks such as drafting," he said.
"Our working area designs have a strong focus on the inclusion of such technology.
"No two sets of yards that leave our shed are the same. All yards need to be individually tailored to the needs and requirements of each operator."