One of the most important steps in evaluating and improving your flock management practices is good record keeping. The right livestock scale can be a sound investment for your sheep farm, allowing you to easily monitor the condition of your flock, record the growth rate of your lambs, and to keep accurate records.
In this article I’ll list the 4 most popular types of sheep scales, and share some links to my favorite livestock scales for sale online.
Types of Sheep Scales
There are four categories of sheep scales to choose from if you’re thinking of purchasing a livestock scale for your farm. These are:
Hanging Sling Scale
Good for weighing lambs suspended from loft floor joists in the barn.
Livestock Scale Kits
Good DIY option to build a high-quality walk-on scale and save some money.
Similar to what you would find in a veterinary clinic. Very accurate and reliable.
Walk-On Livestock Scales w/ Cage
My pick for the best all-around option. You can incorporate into your existing chute system.
The cost of the sheep scales in any of these four categories typically reflects their functionality and ease of use.
Which Livestock Scale is Right for Your Sheep Farm?
In my view, most farms who only keep records for lamb weights can get by with a hanging digital scale. This is the least expensive option, it’s accurate, and it’s easy to move around the barn to weigh your lambs next to a lambing jug, etc. I recommend buying or making a livestock sling which will allow you to safely lift your lambs to weigh them on your hanging scale.
The platform livestock scale kit is a nice option if you’re handy and want to build a custom scale that will work for your farm and needs. You can cut a 3/4″ plywood base and attach aluminum diamond plate or a similar rubberized textured top with contact cement, creating a scale that will be easy to clean and easy for your sheep to walk on without slipping. The best part about this option is that you can customize the size of your scale to an existing handling system, the size of the sheep on your farm, etc.
The walk-on digital platform scales used in most veterinary offices tend to be the best value — you get a pre-built, accurate scale that will accommodate any-size sheep, without paying much more than you would for the kit. The down-side is that the top of these scales tends to be either slick stainless, or they come with a thin rubber mat which is fine for dogs, but which will not generally hold up well under sheep hooves.
Finally, the most expensive option is a aluminum or steel cage around a digital walk-on scale. If you can afford the higher price of one of these livestock scales, it’s a very worthwhile investment. It’s easy to run in one animal at a time when moving your flock through a handling system, making it a nearly hands-free solution that gives you accurate results in the least amount of time spent weighing your sheep.
Why Should You Weigh Your Sheep?
Weighing your lambs at 30, 60, 90, and 120 days, and recording those weights is an important part of managing your flock.
Not only will this help you identify the best practices for creep feeding and deworming your lambs (by comparing growth rates from one year to the next), it will allow you to evaluate the performance of your rams as terminal sires, and it will give you important data on your ewe flock to determine which ewes have the best milk production (allowing you to select ewe lambs from those dams to add to your brood ewe flock).
This article was originally published in December, 2017 but has been updated for 2021 with the latest products and recommendations.
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