Prototype gets the nod

Champion shearers, Ben Barrett, Jason Wingfield and Bill Hutchison trial the final prototype of redesigned shearing modules at Arrow Park, Dubbo.
Champion shearers, Ben Barrett, Jason Wingfield and Bill Hutchison trial the final prototype of redesigned shearing modules at Arrow Park, Dubbo.

SHEARING board design hasn’t changed all that much since the wool boom of the 1950s, but thanks to wool harvesters and Australian Wool Innovation funding, a “blueprint” of a new design is to become available free.

Hilton Barrett shows the wider drop chute incorporated in the new design.

Hilton Barrett shows the wider drop chute incorporated in the new design.

The result of more than 12 months hands-on research by professionals in the wool harvesting industry, the blueprint will soon be released onto the AWI website when finalised.

Project facilitator, Peter Schuster of Schuster Consulting Group, Dubbo, said after AWI agreed to the concept, a workshop was convened, which clearly identified the need to consult with all stakeholders in the wool harvesting process.

“The project was looking at different approaches to wool harvesting, which maximised animal welfare and worker welfare as well as efficiency in that process,” Mr Schuster said.

A reference group of highly experienced, world class shearers, wool classers, shed hands and producers was formed and inspected six sheds on a tour in the Central West.

“These professionals looked at the different designs, picked the eyes out of what worked and what didn’t and put together a checklist or review sheet which they completed at each shed then workshopped all of those ideas,” Mr Schuster said.

“From this workshop an online survey was submitted to about 500 shearers, classers and wool producers seeking feedback on what they saw as the critical elements affecting welfare and efficiency in the woolshed and wool harvesting process.”

Woolgrower and shearing contractor Hilton, Dubbo instigated the project concept by submitting a proposal to AWI and the project was developed when he decided to build a new woolshed.

“We’ve been working in old floor plans developed in the 1950s, which haven’t changed much since,” Mr Barrett said.

Prototypes had been built and trialled at the Arrow Park property with the third version now finalised.

Mr Schuster said it was a constant process of trialling different angles, different stand positions.

“We’ve now got the catching pen right, a really good front-fill (downward) gentle sloped catching pen which works efficiently,” he said.

“We have minimised a shearer’s turning and (sheep) drag which optimises efficiency and welfare of the shearer.”

Australian champion shearer Jason Wingfield, Cobram, Victoria, one of the professionals, said sheep are now bigger and they took into consideration designs that would make it easier for people to move those bigger sheep around.

“Changing the angles of catching pens so we are dragging (sheep) out to the board in a straight line and when finished shearing drop the sheep straight down a wider chute takes the big corners out,” Mr Wingfield said.

“These easier and efficient new methods could give an extra 10 years work to a shearer,” Mr Wingfield said.

“When you’re pulling on a 100 kilogram sheep, twisting as you go on old designed boards, then obviously your hips and knees will get a hammering. But this new design minimises those health risks.”

Noise was another feature, so the module is fabricated with timber which absorbs noise.

“Flooring is going to be a critically important feature to eliminate light coming through from underneath,” Mr Schuster said.

“Lighting itself is also important, ventilation another. All these elements will be considered in the recommendation. Doors have also been considered and we decided on two staggered doors, one wider than the other and not heavy, but functional to prevent escapes.”

Mr Schuster said what suits the wool handler may not necessarily suit the shearer, or may not suit the person filling the bins.

“But in the process we worked out the most efficient compromise in the design.”

What Mr Schuster did find in the online survey was polarisastion when it came to raised or not raised boards.

“Some people loved it, some hated it, he said. So we are recommending a modular design of one stand, and people can then turn that into any number when building into an existing shed or a brand new shed.

“It will be a blueprint and if people want a raised floor, they can incorporate that into their own design.”

This story Prototype gets the nod first appeared on The Land.