Profile: Stock Ezy

By: Vivienne Haldane


Farming is an extremely physical occupation, so any equipment that speeds up the workflow or eases animal handling literally helps take the load off farmers’ backs

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Sean Blenkin with his Stock Ezy creation

As an experienced shearer and farmworker, Sean Blenkin is well acquainted with handling sheep. Having seen farmers struggle to set sheep upright once they become cast in the paddock, he designed a lightweight ewe cradle that’s easily transportable on a quad bike.

The solution to a problem

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The ewe cradle’s portability is a winning feature

Sean, who lives in Masterton, used to work for an animal handling company in Australia. When that came to an end, he returned to New Zealand and began to think about his next career move.

It seemed logical to call on the skills he’d built up thus far. This led to him coming up with a plan to build a portable animal-handling product to help farmers manage any sheep requiring attention while out on their daily rounds.

Sean called it Stock Ezy ewe cradle and set about drawing up a design. It needed to be light for transportability, yet strong. Once happy with his design, Sean then got a Masterton engineering firm to bend the DuraGal frames.

From his home workshop, Sean does the rest – drilling holes, riveting, and assembling, while his wife Maire, an experienced seamstress by trade, sews the fabric cradle on her industrial sewing machine.

Sean has worked closely with several farmers in his region to trial the cradle. He tried out as wide a range of sheep as possible to ensure they were comfortable in the cradle before settling on the final design.

The ewe cradle in action

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The ewe cradle on display at a field days

The Stock Ezy ewe cradle has several purposes, one of the main ones being to rescue ‘downers’ and put them on their feet again. "The cradle supports sheep that have metabolic problems prior to lambing. They often suffer from calcium or magnesium deficiency caused by dietary intake. They also suffer from sleepy sickness.

"In today’s markets, farmers are aiming for higher lambing percentage (multiple births), which often creates problems with ewes being heavy in lamb, keeling over and not being able to get up," says Sean.

When a farmer is on his daily round, if he sees a ‘downer’, he can secure it in the cradle. He then treats the ewe with the necessary medication, carries on with his work and returns later to release the sheep.

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The ewe cradle works well with lambs needing to be re-mothered

The ewe cradle is width and height adjustable and supports sheep from 40kg up to 120kg.
The cradle also works well for lambs needing to be re-mothered. Sean explains, "Often the ewe is feisty, so sometimes it is necessary to knock in pegs either side of the base of the frame. Because the ewe is in the cradle, they can’t bunt the lamb away. Usually, the ewe gradually accepts the lamb."

Feedback so far has been positive.

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Feedback from farmers and shearers has been positive

"I thoroughly test everything I build. I have a group of local farmers who are happy to work and develop products with me. Having this network helps. Without them, you’re buggered. You need their support to get the product completely right."

Among the farmers Sean works are sheep milk farmers, Jeff and Shirley Ravenwood of Fernglen Farm.

"Jeff works four months ahead of the main lambing. He’s also doing trials with a carrier for the ewe cradle to attach to the quad bike which I hope to have in production by lambing time."

The wool fadge pack holder

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The fadge holder has been further adapted with wheels for a handy garden bag

Next up, Sean designed and built a collapsible metal frame for a wool fadge. He explains how it came about. 

"I was at an A & P show with the ewe cradle on display. A guy came along and said, ‘You are dealing with sheep products, where can I get a fadge holder?’

"I had time on my hands, so then and there came up with an idea to modify the ewe cradle and make it into a fadge holder. I went to my manufacturer in Masterton who laser cut and bent it and presto: the collapsible fadge holder was made."

It’s a unique way of holding the fadge in place, with arms that lift up and down: it can also be folded away.

"The wool stores used to complain when the pins and nails holding the wool fadge in place, got lost in the wool. Often they’d go into the scour and damage equipment. To prevent this, I’ve made the holder with no additional pieces that can come loose."

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The fadge holder holds the fadge securely in place

The fadge easily slips out from beneath the fame when it’s full. Sean’s wool fadge holder was used recently at the Golden Shears 60th anniversary competitions. He’s elated to say it received favourable reviews and there was plenty of interest in using it in future.

"Before the event, I’d taken the fadge holder to one of their committee meetings. The response was: ‘it’s about time someone has designed a decent fadge holder!’ They were willing to try it at the show, which was a fantastic endorsement."

In the woolshed, fadges are used to contain the wool oddments such as belly wool and sweepings, which the presser then processes. It keeps everything tidy on the board explains Sean.

"At the Golden Shears, it cut their time for changing wool fadges in half.

It used to take 3.5 minutes; now it’s down to a minute. The wool handlers who used it couldn’t speak highly enough of it. They also like the fact that between shearing events, they can fold up the holder and lay it on the board, rather than having to clear it off."

The shearing industry isn’t the only sector getting excited about Sean’s nifty design; gardeners like them too. "I put them on my website and had enquiries from gardeners in Auckland, wanting them made with wheels to make it easier to cart around the garden. Now I’ve designed the frames with a wheel kit and a floor, which when you open it up automatically folds down. It keeps the fadge off the ground."

COVID-19 impact

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When Sean was interviewed, the country had just entered COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown. He’d spent the week scrambling to get more frames made so he and Maire would have plenty on hand to assemble in the coming month.

"I couldn’t have started a new business at a worse time," he says. In spite of this, he’s boxing on. He’s hoping he’d have enough cradles ready in time for the lambing season, but that depends on how long the lockdown lasts.

He’s not convinced it will only be a month. "I believe it is going to last much longer," he says. At first, Sean did much of his business through agricultural shows and field days. Now that option is not possible, he has to think hard about how to get his products out on the market.

To this end, he’s had a website developed so people can buy directly from him. Another avenue he’s exploring is getting involved in online farmer discussion groups. Whatever way he spreads the word, like many others, he’ll be thinking outside the square and utilising all the resources he has at hand in this restricted time.

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