It surprises me how much we use the autodrafter, how easy it is to use, and how well the sheep go through it. It seems the more they use it they quicker they go through.

Ours is a Pratley air draft, 3 way with swing gates. A five way draft would have been handy, and I am sure if we had that capacity I might have used the draft for even more drafting options, such as drafting lambs by sire.

Our main joining for us requires a lot of drafting. Firstly it’s by breed, then whether ai, et, recips or natural. Then for the Poll Dorsets this year the naturals went into 8 individual sire joining groups. That meant the final draft of the naturals was still a 3 way draft and then each group another 2 or 3 ways.

Hard to believe we used to do all this manually with the stick reader reading the electronic tags, and even harder to go back another few years when it was reading tags visually and flicking through sheets of paper. This technology has saved a lot of time and stress, and bruises, as well as an increase in precision and accuracy. Monitoring weights easily throughout the year has been an added bonus.

All the adult ewes were all weighed initially when they were drafted by breed in early January. While they get weighed every time they are drafted, the next time the whole group got weighed was when they were drafted for back-up joining March 20. These weights gave us both a joining weight (January and March) and the second weight then told us whether we had fed them well enough through the first joining period which had ended 3 weeks earlier. The 2 breed groups had put on about a kg on average through the period, so yes, nutrition was probably spot on.

Surprisingly the next weight was when we drafted by preg test result mid May. This weight showed amazingly almost a 10 kg average improvement with a good autumn.

We now have good weight benchmarks for future reference.