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Beyond the Bale : December 2012
33 ON-FARM December 2012 BEYOND THE BALE IMPLEMENTATION The Mitchells made the majority of changes over three years and have continued to make small improvements each year. This staggered approach enabled them to budget for and spread the costs over several seasons. The first year was focused on modernising equipment essential to the shearing operation and involved replacing the original 1950s shaft driven gear with electric equipment. The Mitchells saw this as the most important step in enhancing the working environment for shearers, safety-wise and efficiency-wise. Swings were also installed for the harnesses, helping to reduce the strain and stress on shearers, meaning they work more comfortably throughout the day and pull up better the following day. In the second year the Mitchells invested in better lighting to enhance conditions for the wool handlers, classer and shearers. Proper lighting enables the wool handlers to work more efficiently in moving fleeces across the table without straining their eyes. It also gives shearers a clearer view of the sheep being shorn, helping work towards a better clip. In the third year, the Mitchells painted the inside of the shed white to enhance the new lighting that had been installed the year before, the reflection brightening all working areas of the shed. Shearers in the shed also say that having the shed painted white makes it cooler, with heat possibly reflected off the roof and exterior walls which are also painted a light colour. In the same year, Mr Mitchell also set about custom making modular bins for the wool that sit on runners and can be easily moved around the boards. In the years following, while the Mitchells were working on gaining green tick accreditation for Cashel Vale, occupational health and safety (OH&S) improvements were implemented, including the installation of safety rails and signage, the reduction in fire hazards, and the inclusion of well-marked fire extinguishers and first aid kits for emergency situations. INVESTMENT Investment in shed infrastructure has been made over a decade, enabling money to be spent in line with farm cash flow and be broken down into a per head figure for the flock. "In the past ten years for every sheep that we've shorn in this shed we've spent approximately 40 to 70 cents on safety, equipment and maintenance improvements," Mr Mitchell says. "The big ticket item was running underground power to the shed, which cost us approximately $20,000 to install. Replacing the old shaft driven gear was $12,000 and the biggest improvement we made for the shearers. "Painting the inside of the shed was reasonably inexpensive and we were able to build the modular bins and safety railings ourselves on-farm, saving money. "Signage was a reasonable cost, though we managed that by making purchases over time rather than all at once." Mr Mitchell says that measuring return on investment can be difficult in monetary terms; however improved efficiencies and safety have made the investment worthwhile. "We wanted to create the best working environment we could for shearers, knowing that if we achieved this, we could improve the shed's efficiency overall and arguably produce a better clip. "We have a really happy shed and the same guys are back every year. Having an above-average shed for the area also means we can expect an above-average job at shearing time." More information: The full case study and video featuring the Mitchell's shed are available at www.bestprac.info AWI's shearing shed guidelines are available on the AWI website at www.wool.com/sheds Having work space flexibility and modern equipment were essential to the shed's upgrade. Modular bins which can be easily moved help create a flexible work environment. White walls improve lighting and help keep the shed cool. "WE WANTED TO CREATE THE BEST WORKING ENVIRONMENT WE COULD FOR SHEARERS, KNOWING THAT IF WE ACHIEVED THIS, WE COULD IMPROVE THE SHED'S EFFICIENCY OVERALL AND ARGUABLY PRODUCE A BETTER CLIP." STUART MITCHELL