Sometimes you don’t know how valuable on-farm equipment is until it’s gone. At least that was the case for Jay Lewis, an Ontario, Canada lamb producer. During a recent thunderstorm, a lightning bolt struck Lewis’ Te Pari livestock handling equipment – specifically, the scale – rendering it inoperable. Before that day, Lewis knew the scale was a valuable piece of equipment. But in the wake of its destruction, he came to realize that it is integral to the efficiency and success of his lamb operation.

Life on the Lewis farm is very busy, making time quite possibly its most valuable commodity. Each year, the lamb operation markets some 30,000 lambs alone. The Lewis family harvests 6,000 acres of crops, including corn, wheat, soybeans and canola. They manage a lot of 600 ewes, raise a few hundred beef cattle, and milk approximately 65 dairy cows. On top of that, they own a thriving trucking business. What this means is that the family farm doesn’t have time for mishaps and malfunctions.

Jay Lewis says the lamb part of his operation is successful in huge part because of the equipment he uses. His farm is equipped with an older Racewell sheep handler, which at one time processed as many as 80,000 lambs a year. Recently, he upgraded to an EID system and added a Te Pari scale to help in the task of getting the lambs in the right price schedule. He also purchased a Drench Gun, which he considers a revolutionary product with tremendous opportunity.

The handling equipment, and especially the scale, is used to process every single lamb both that comes in and goes out. The system, he says, is fast, accurate and efficient. Coming in, the lambs are identified, sorted by weight, and checked for defects or illnesses. While the Lewises have used other handling equipment in the past, it has not produced the same results. “Other sorters don’t allow you to do maintenance on the animals,” said Lewis. “With the Te Pari system, though, you can check on parts of the animals while they’re there.”

After the lambs have been fed for 30–40 days, they are sorted by weight. “We can then compare to the catalogue to see weight gains and losses,” he said. “Good customer relation is important; the original handler helped us get above the other guys.”

Lewis says the time and money he’s saved using Te Pari handling equipment cannot be calculated. “It’s priceless,” he said. With regards to labour, though, savings have been very little to date. That will change very soon, however. As of July 16, 2016, a mandatory tagging law comes into effect in Ontario. “When we have to tag manifest, then there’ll be savings,” he said. “And the labour savings will be high.”

The handling equipment has also improved the safety and comfort for those who use it. “The machine is very safe to operate,” said Lewis. “And processing is a lot better as a worker. There’s less physical strain.”

Probably the best outcome of their handling equipment, though, is how it has enabled the Lewises to get their lambs into the right price schedule. This is especially important, since they market lambs 3–4 times per week.

While he never had to think about it before, Lewis now knows that the consequences of not having an operational handler are great. “Sorting is a lot less accurate,” he said. “And we’re not able to read the tags in.”

At the time of this interview, Lewis was working closely with Marketing Director Jeremy Blampied to get the part he needs for repairs. “Jeremy has been great to work with,” said Lewis. He expects to have the equipment up and running in a couple of weeks at most.

“I wouldn’t want to go much longer without it,” concluded Lewis.