- To keep sheep moving, make sure there’s always a clear way ahead.
- Sheep don’t like visual dead ends – they don’t move freely towards them.
- Arrange things so that they think they’re about to escape back to their home territory – the paddock they came from!
- For a dead end in a woolshed, put a mirror on the wall so the sheep see a sheep move to for security.
- If you have to put sheep along with a handling race, pen a decoy sheep at the far end to help pull them along.
- Make races narrow enough to prevent sheep from turning around and blocking the flow. This is not easy, as you have to handle sheep ranging in size from large pregnant ewes to small lambs in the same facilities. Having tapered sides to the race (slightly wider at the top than at the bottom) can help.
- Make sure the sides of pens and races where you do most of the handling are closely boarded, so the sheep cannot see through and get distracted.
- Advancing sheep should not be able to see those following them, as they’ll stop then reverse, or try to turn round and block the flow.
- Sheep following each other should see sheep moving ahead, preferably around a bend. Moving sheep will generally "pull" the followers with them – once you’ve got a flow going.
- Sheep move best from dark into light and generally dislike changes in light contrast.
- Sheep don’t like bright lights e.g. reflections from windows.
- They don’t like light coming up from under gratings. Gratings at woolshed doors should be laid so the floor looks solid to the sheep.
- Sheep really panic on slippery floors – so provide some grip.
- Sheep soon get adjusted to any noise used to move them – so keep changing the noise for effect.
- Changing it (or stopping it) will also help prevent the helpers from going silly!
- Sheep remember past experiences. Run them through new facilities a few times and let them think they can escape before you subject them to any unpleasant procedures like ear tagging or shearing.
- If you have badly designed handling facilities that cannot be fixed – keep a "Judas" sheep to lead the doubters through.
- To lead other sheep into the truck, you can train a Judas sheep with some pellets, and pet lambs are useful for this job. Make sure the Judas sheep isn’t accidentally loaded into the truck though! Cover it with raddle.
Catching and holding sheep
- Don’t catch or hang on to sheep by their wool. It will cause pain.
- To catch a sheep, move up quietly in the blind zone immediately behind it.
- To sit it on its rear for procedures like feet trimming, put one hand under its chin and lift its head slightly to stop it from lurching forward. If it gets its head down you will lose control.
- Then, with one hand under its chin, turn its head round to face its rear on the side away from you. Grab its rear end with your other hand, or down where the back leg joins the body.
- Hang on tight and move backward pulling the sheep towards you.
- The sheep’s legs will buckle and it will fall back towards you. Lay it on the ground on its side, and press down on it to keep it there.
- Then quickly grab its front legs and sit it up on its rear end at an angle of about 60 degrees from upright.
- If it is too far forward it will jump back onto its feet – be prepared for this. If it is too far back it will struggle and kick with both back legs in unison.
- Practice finding the right angle to sit the sheep at, and keep your legs close in behind its body.
- When you find the right angle, the sheep will relax and you can take your hands off and hold them only with your legs. It’s the position a shearer uses before starting to shear.
- With a big heavy ram or ewe, you’ll struggle to turn its head around as its neck will be strong. Make it easier by standing on one side of the sheep, bending over the sheep with your knees bent, putting your arms underneath its body, and grabbing the two legs furthest from your head (i.e. nearest your legs).
- Give the legs a firm pull towards you and the sheep should drop onto its side. Use that moment of surprise to hold it down, and then grab its front feet quickly and sit it on its rump. Watch for flying legs when it realises what has happened!
- When lifting small sheep over fences, rock them up and over on your knees to save your back, as shown below. Don’t try to lift heavy sheep.
1. Pull sheep up on its hind legs
2. Left hand holds right front leg
3. Right hand grips flank
4. Left knee pushes sheep over fence
Diagram from Kilgour and Dalton, 1980: