scale2I did my 120 day sheep weights, using my first rev of a weighing box for the sheep. I just jury-rigged something together using things I had on hand, to try out the location and flow before considering building something more permanent.

It worked ok, though I can see several things that would make it work better. For this attempt, I made a narrow rectangular box. One side was the fence, and one side was a tube gate. One end was made from a piece of hog panel. The tube gate was bungee-corded onto a T-post corner, so that it was “hinged” and I could open and close it.

The  open end of the rectangle was where I stood to manipulate the sheep onto the scale and look at the display. The battery powered display was hung on the fence. I penned the sheep in a small square area that’s a culvert crossing between fields. I could open the gate of that pen and have it line up perfectly with the tube gate of my box. I’d push one sheep into the box, close the pen gate behind me to keep the rest of the sheep out, and then weigh the sheep. When I was done, I could open the tube gate wide and exhaust the sheep into the channel pen.scale1

One improvement I can see is it would be best to make the box a little smaller than, and sitting above, the scale, to ensure all four sheep feet get on the scale (while at the same time making sure the gate isn’t adding weight to the scale). There were times when one foot would slip off the scale and go in between the scale and the fence, and I’d have to reach in there and re-position the sheep while trying not to cause a ruckus.

As everyone who owns sheep knows, tube gates are obnoxious, because sheep try to go through them when they panic. Only, they don’t fit through, so they end up either bending the gate, or tearing it clean off its hinge!  (Or, injuring themselves if the gate is too robust.) Thus you can see I bungee-corded a dog ex-pen panel to visually discourage them from trying this. But it still happened a couple of times and I had to re-construct my box!

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When I did the ewes and lambs, the exhausted sheep would tend to congregate behind me and the open end of the scale box. This caused a problem in that it was hard to convince sheep to go in the box, I had to shove them, to force them away from the group where they didn’t want to go. Later I did the rams, and Maggie pushed them into the corner behind the scale and held them there. I was a little more work to drag rams out of the group and around to the box opening. But once they were there, they walked naturally and calmly onto the scale, because they were headed towards the group. This made it much easier to do the weighing itself, as the sheep were happy to stand in the scale box quietly as long as I needed them to. So, a good reminder to use wisdom in placing the exhausted flock to best leverage the direction you want sheep to head in a chute flow.

You can see in the photos this ram lamb staying on the scale without my assistance. And Kitchen Lamb looking on- he kept getting on the scale over and over, and getting in the way! Ironic since he is such a wee thing, his weight is hardly worth noting! 😀

I was most frustrated with the rubber mat on the scale- it’s bottom is slippery, and it kept tending to slide off the scale. Then the sheep would lose traction and freak out, I’d have to remove the sheep, re-position the mat, and try again. I finally learned to slide the mat toward me and step on its end as the sheep was walking onto the scale, to hold it in place until the sheep was on and holding still. I am thinking about Velcro or something to hold the mat in place, but still allow me to remove it to clean it and the scale when I’m done using it. It certainly needs to be cleanable.

The scale was behaving badly for me, it is definitely a classic “made in China” piece of equipment. The batteries are held loosely in the display, and at times rattle around and lose contact, causing the display to lose power. The cable that plugs into the scale inserts into the side of the scale body. This is an unfortunate design for a scale specifically labeled for weighing animals, because it’s possible for animals to sometimes step off the side of the scale and step on the cable connector. The cable connection itself is rather loose, and looser now that a few sheep have stepped on it, so the scale frequently errored-out on me. I’d have to put the sheep back in the pen and fiddle with the connection until it was working again. Very exasperating!

But, I managed to weigh all 49 sheep, even the mature rams (I stopped short at the llama!). I’ll try to work on improving the connections and reinforcing the insertion point of the cable to protect it from errant feet next time. Hopefully I can make this $200 scale last until such day as I feel justified in purchasing an expensive outdoor livestock scale.

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