PRECISION in design blended with a little animal psychology continues to power Atlex Stockyards in its drive for industry excellence.
Their innovative attitude is also a timely advantage, given the reaction of producers to on-farm processes, improving environmental conditions and a rising demand for livestock assets, including meat, as the world grapples with the unprecedented wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Launched 36 years ago by Ian Crafter, Atlex Stockyards, which sits just up the road from Dubbo in Brocklehurst, NSW, is lauded for its ingenuity, quality assurance, product delivery and service.
“Atlex has designed, manufactured and constructed more than 6000 unique sheep yards, cattle yards, abattoirs, feedlots and goat yards, and interest is greater than ever in Atlex’s goods and services,” Mr Crafter said.
“Many properties are investing in high productivity with safe, labour-saving cattle and sheep yards. The majority of new yards are being designed with two or three different work stations using a central force.
“This force is being designed for ease of movement for livestock and incorporates precision and animal psychology.
“The Atlex design team’s understanding of animal behaviour and practical design have been big drivers in eliminating frustration and stress in the yard, enabling the producer to work alone with one good sheepdog.
“When we started 36 years ago we took a unique approach to stock handling.”
A pragmatic Mr Crafter freely admits Atlex was helped on its way to a foothold as a clever company through design of yard features, such as employee Len Hawker’s ever-popular Tip Swing Block Gate, which remains one of the smart features of Atlex stockyards.
Atlex also developed the concept of computer aided on-property site survey and design, the original Adjustable Tapered Drafting Race and step thru Manways with a dog flap.
“Len’s design was purely amazing in its simplicity and strength. It is open and that gives the sheep confidence because they see others ahead and know there is a way out,” Mr Crafter said.
“At the time we chose to incorporate animal psychology attributes into our yard design instead of yards being designed by steel manufacturers with little or no knowledge of working stock.
“Our experience showed that if the animal is calm it improves the pH of the meat and therefore it’s a winner for the producer. We work on keeping the animals as safe and as confident as possible.
“Getting the animal to work for you, rather than you working for them. is the trick and that factor is paramount in every one of our yard designs.”
Mr Crafter said animal psychology was more than a buzz word with considerable research undertaken in this field and leading animal psychologist Dr Temple Grandin has worked closely with Atlex over the years.
Mr Crafter adds Atlex’s on-property design processes, in which robotic theodolites are utilised for accuracy as well as detailed observations, are an intrinsic component of the Atlex process.
“By going out and visiting properties whether it’s in Western Australia, South Australia, the western district in Victoria and up into north-western Queensland, we specialise in incorporating existing structures on a farm into a new design,” he said.
“The yards are just all customised and can include existing infrastructure whether it be woolsheds, trees, dips or laneways and there would not be two sets of yards that are identical.”
Back on the pandemic front, Mr Crafter is optimistic the agricultural sector will be a leading light for Australia’s recovery.
“We all need to eat and agriculture is definitely in the box seat to drive our economy out of difficult times,” he said.
“The farming and associated rural industries are one of the backbones of our economy along with mining.
“The hardships of the drought over the past few years in the eastern states has driven positive change.
Containment feeding of ewes has been an example and although costly to initiate with fencing, water troughs, etc, few would now regret this pain.
“Rural Australia is well positioned and our awareness of risks is high so we plan accordingly. We are fortunate the federal government has increased the $150,000 investment incentive for instant asset write-off. It is welcome and helping agriculture to be the engine room for recovery.”
It’s about timing, precision and positivity
Published by The Land, by Alan Welburn 28 May 2020, 11:47 a.m.