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Alternative restraint devices for sheep

Project start date: 01 March 2014
Project end date: 30 October 2014
Publication date: 30 October 2014
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb


A number of overseas, and export, markets for sheep slaughter sheep without prior stunning (particularly for the Kosher and Halal markets).  A variety of restraint devices are in use in commercial meat processing facilities in Australia and overseas, but there are no clear guidelines of which would constitute 'best practice' suitable for processing facilities, particularly in regions where power supply is limited or intermittent, or where complex engineering installations are not practicable. 
Through internet, scientific literature and patent searches, combined with in-market consultation, a catalogue of sheep restraint methods utilised across the supply chain was collated.  For slaughter, four restraint methods predominate: Manual restraint, in small processing facilities; knocking box single animal units; V-conveyor restrainers, used in high throughput facilities; and side clamp restrainers, used uncommonly.  For management practices on farm, the side clamp is commonly used, to restrain sheep for individual procedures such as foot trimming or shearing; races are used for sorting and drenching; and single animal crates are used for weighing.  A few specialist restrainers used for specific operations, e.g. the AI cradle, a sheep seat, or hobbles/gambrels also exist.  The restraint methods identified were considered in terms of utility for sheep slaughter (stunned or unstunned), ease of use, ease of construction, and ease of retro-fitting to existing handling facilities in overseas markets.  Based on the outcomes, four conceptual designs for a bespoke sheep restraint unit were prepared, and evaluated for potential for rapid implementation into overseas markets. 
One design has been recommended for prototype construction and in-market evaluation: the Simple Side Clamp.  This design is based on the side-clamping concept which is extensively used in sheep production for shearing and foot trimming.  It has simple construction parameters, does not require infrastructure such as electricity, compressed air or hydraulics, and would be easy to clean and maintain.  The design is low-tech and therefore likely to be easily constructed within the target market.  Infrastructure such as forcing pens and ramps delivering animals to the point of slaughter are becoming widely used, and this restraint device could be incorporated into existing layouts, with minor modification of the ramp to deliver the animal at the correct angle for slaughter.  The prototype will be trialled in the Middle East market and modified if required.