AFTER almost two years of hard work and extensive industry consultation and research, Australia's most efficient shearing shed design has come to fruition.
And according to project facilitator, Peter Schuster of Schuster Consulting Group, Dubbo, the design breaks the conventions as far as shearing sheds go.
"This is a win-win situation. It's not just about the shearers, it's about labour efficiency, it's about woolgrowers, wool handlers and importantly it's about the welfare of the sheep," Mr Schuster said.
"Addressing work safety and animal welfare concerns through a conventional design and conventional shearing."
The concept for the shearing shed design came from former world champion shearer and shearing contractor Hilton Barrett of Arrow Park, Dubbo, where an Open Day will be held on Saturday, July 27 from 10am to 2pm.
With the assistance of Australian Wool Innovation, Mr Barrett engaged in consultation with shearers, wool handlers, classers and woolgrowers to make sure the shed design addressed all the main criteria for worker safety and animal welfare.
The shed promotes efficiency for workers, flow of livestock, worker safety, quality wool preparation and animal welfare.
A blueprint of the design, funded by AWI, will be available for free via the AWI website when finalised.
Mr Schuster said some alterations were made after a 'closed door' shearing was conducted to see how the process flowed.
"We put a couple of hundred sheep through and quite significant modifications have been made, but all still part of the plan," he said.
"Once completed the blueprint will be there for whoever wants it."
He said people will be able to take that blueprint, engage their own builder and the internal structure will have its own integrity.
"It doesn't rely on the structural strength of the shearing shed," he said.
"You can put up any type of shed and then you fit it out with the design from this project."
Mr Schuster said one of the key features is the straight drag, making it much easier on shearers.
But the compromise between the livestock, shearers and wool handlers is what makes it so attractive for the entire industry.
"If we were going to have it all about the shearers it would look slightly different, but we believe we have struck the best balance between them all," Mr Schuster said.
"Gone are the days of the shearer wrestling with the sheep."
The catching pens are an efficient front-fill (downward) gentle sloped catching pen. The sheep run up to a sloped catching pen and are facing away from the shearer so when the shearer steps into the catching pen, the sheep rolls down a very gentle slope.
Efficiency and welfare of the shearer has been optimised with turning for the shearer and sheep drag minimised.
The shearer doesn't have to turn at a right angle when they come out of the doors.
They then have a straight drag to their work station and when they complete the shearing they have a recessed wider shoot where the sheep is presented to the shoot in a way that the shearer doesn't have to touch them.
Noise was another feature, so the module is fabricated with timber which absorbs noise.
The first stage of the process began by gathering a reference group of well regarded, world class shearers, shed hands and producers from all over the country.
About half a dozen sheds were inspected in the central west area of NSW and according to Mr Schuster, "the eyes were picked out of those shed designs."
"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," Mr Schuster said.
A prototype was then fabricated out of plywood and was put to the test.
This initially identified some issues before an old shed was fitted out and a further prototype was made and the design was further refined.
"It was after this that the build phase was initiated," Mr Schuster said.
"A six stand shed was built, which has now been modified based on a shearing in that shed. Shearers that took part in the initial tour of sheds were invited back and shore in the shed."
He said the project has been all about longevity for shearers, maximising their career spans through shed design.
"Along with this, animal welfare, presenting the wool in the best possible condition to maximise the value of that clip have also been critical aspects," Mr Schuster said.
"As has the working conditions for shed hands, wool handlers and classers.
"It really all comes together in this final design."
Mr Schuster said looking to the future of the wool industry, a shortage of shearers is a real possibility.
"If and once that time comes, having an efficient shed is going to make the producer a lot more appealing to the shearing contractor," he said.
"There has been nothing left to chance or accident in this shed. There is no silver bullet for the industry, but combined with things like shearer training and possibly some of the 'Shear-Jitsu' techniques, we could see shearers careers' lengthened."
Hilton Barrett said they key in the new design was a whole team environment.
"Everything was designed so that everyone in the shed benefits," he said.
"We now have stand as as close as possible at 3.3 metres wide between cedge of catching door to chute.
"The flat board gives a good front fill for the presser, who will have more time to help other shed workers."
In a test, it took 10 seconds to fill a catching pen.
Mr Barrett said chutes were lower, wider and deeper so there was less chance of a shearer falling down one.
The blueprint will save money in building.
"My shed is 26x24m and six-stand and you should be able to have any builder do a similar job, depending on how much work a farmer wants to do."
- Additional reporting and photography, Mark Griggs
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