A flexible sheep handling system designed to reduce operator fatigue and increase labour efficiency took out top gong in the Henty Machine of the Year Award on Tuesday.
The Back Up Charlie, invented by Urana farmers Charlie and Tana Webb, was praised by judges for its functionality and scope of application.
Mr Webb said it was flexible, and could be deployed in a 180-degree angle or straight line.
“It’s a lead up race for things like sheep handlers, crutching machines – any type of thing like that,” he said.
“Basically, it just stops your sheep from backing up, so you’re not always pushing sheep up and you have a constant flow.
“When you’ve got a constant flow, you don’t have to get into the yards and manhandle them, things work a lot better.”
For the Webbs, the idea simply came from a practical need.
“If you don’t have to get in to handle sheep, it’s a lot easier to get people to work for you,” he said.
A close runner-up to the Back Up Charlie was the Miller 6365 with Spray-Air from Western Australia-based McIntosh Distribution.
Sales manager Scott Jameson said the sprayer’s ability to control the droplet size saw significant reductions in water rates.
“We’ve just released our six series Miller sprayer, which has a revolutionary drive system that is much more fuel efficient,” he said.
“The other side is a product called Miller Spray-Air, which is an air-resist style spray boom.
“We’re using an air curtain to actually help drive the droplets produced by the boom into the ground, but the revolutionary side to it is using air to create the droplet, using cross-jets of air.”
Small Business Minister and Riverina MP Michael McCormack was full of praise for the prize-winners.
“When I talk about innovation, I talk about such things as Back Up Charlie,” he said.
“Those sorts of innovative exercises and innovations and inventions are the sort of things that Henty Machinery Field Days has been doing for 50-plus years.”
Former Henty chairman Colin Wood marvelled at the change in agricultural technology over his career. “In management, machinery – it’s virtually all going electronically,” he said.