Innovative sheep handler wins Henty Machine of the Year

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Jose, Charlie and Tana Webb, Urana, celebrate their victory in the Machine of the Year Award.

A flexible sheep handling system designed to reduce operator fatigue and increase labour efficiency has been named as the 2016 Henty Machine of the Year.

The Back Up Charlie, entered by Urana farmers Charlie and Tana Webb, has been creating waves since its official launch at Sheepvention in August.

The system impressed judges with its suitability, functionality and scope of application at the Henty Machinery Field Days on Monday.

The field days, southern Australia’s single biggest agricultural and open-air event, are on September 20-22.

Highly commended was the Miller Nitro 6365 self-propelled sprayer with Spray-Air ™ Technology, from McIntosh Distribution, Redcliffe, WA.

A total of 24 machines and equipment at the cutting edge of agricultural technology were showcased in the Machine of the Year.

Announced on the opening day, this “farmers choice’’ award is presented to the most outstanding new piece of agricultural machinery exhibited at the field days.

It was judged by an independent panel of regional primary producers on Monday and presented at the field days opening today (September 20).

In many cases the winning machine has gone on to become a standard piece of equipment on farms throughout Australia.

Judging criteria includes the machine’s purpose and suitability, scope of application, construction (durability and design), ease of maintenance and service, ease of operation and adjustment, availability of parts and overall value for money.

Last year, the award was won by the Axial Throw Flatrac, entered by Victorian company TPOS Fabrications, Coonooer West, Victoria.

Judge Warren Scheetz said the award was open to all machines on site released into the Australian market in the 12 months prior to the field days.

Mr Scheetz said the award showcased innovative equipment already commercially available in the market place.

He said the Back-Up Charlie was labour and time saving, taking the physical effort out of reloading the race with sheep.

“Anyone who has ever worked sheep on their own can appreciate the usefulness of the product at minimising sheep backing up out of the race once it is filled on the way to a sheep handler or drenching race,’’ Mr Scheetz said.

“It is easy to assemble, adjustable to fit various configurations and is portable.’’

Back Up Charlie was launched at Sheepvention at Hamilton in August, winning the livestock/wool technology invention section.

The key to the system is the lightweight hock bars which are below the sheep’s main line of vision and do not allow the sheep to turn or back out of the race.

Designed and manufactured in Lockhart, Back Up Charlie features an anti-backing system, which has been trialled by Charlie and his wife Tana on-farm for several years.

Mr Webb said the system improves sheep flow rate and addressed animal welfare issues.

“There is no reason to physically handle the sheep in the race – this reduces operator frustration and fatigue,’’ he said.

“The need for excessive force or prodders is eliminated – one person with good dogs should be able to crutch over 70 sheep an hour, or with help, over 80 sheep an hour.

“The sheep are not stressed, pushed and forced into the yards, they run a lot better.’’

Runner-up is the Miller Nitro 6365 self-propelled fitted with Spray-Air ™ Technology, from McIntosh Distribution, Redcliffe, WA.

The new Miller Nitro 6365 with Spray-Air has been demonstrated to farmers in many parts of Australia and feedback has been glowing.

The praise has centred on the new model’s innovative drive train system, which allows maximum power and delivers up to a 30 per cent reduction in fuel consumption compared with equivalent sized machines.

The new drive train has been completely redesigned with variable displacement hydrostatic drive system and planetary torque hubs.

This means faster response to speed changes through more efficient transfer of power to the ground, even at lower engine RPM, all contributing to a reduction in fuel consumption.

Warren Scheetz said the Nitro 6365 was a major upgrade from previous models, particularly around the serviceability and power train.

“The Spray-Air system has ability to vary droplet sizes to suit the application,’’ he said.

“The Spray-Air boom was deemed to be quite innovative combining the benefits of air assist and air anatomisation into one spray nozzle system.

“Overall, the judges were impressed with the build and technology of all the entries in the Machine of the Year Award.

“However, the Back-Up Charlie was a standout entry as far as a new product and innovation went.’’