What it does
Focusing on usability, performance and stock wellbeing, Moray is an innovative hand-tool designed for sheep farmers to assist in the seasonal process of removing lambs tails, commonly known as docking.
Overshadowed by recent growth in the dairy industry, record productivity and export levels in the sheep farming industry have been overlooked. Australasian sheep farms (although slowly adapting) remain conservative of traditional processes. Product innovation within the industry continues to be little and tends to involve high complexity, a heavy and often unobtainable investment for most farmers. Little attention has been given to redevelop the older, staple tools of the industry that are seen commonly from farm to farm, provoking injury (agricultural-related injury rates are among the highest in the workforce).
How it works
Utilising the familiar, core functional characteristics of the existing docking tool, Moray respects the needs of busy sheep farmers, who demand simplicity, performance and practicality. The tool is LPG powered (cost effective, fast, performs remotely), heating the copper searing blade - initiated by a piezoelectric ignitor. Used as a scissor action, the tool cuts and simultaneously cauterises the tail. Designed specifically for adverse weather conditions, the double-chamber dampening shaft protects the internal flame cavity form common high country winds, ensuring consistency in blade temperature and ensuring the safest and most effective amputation possible. It features a specialised handle to facilitate a neutral wrist position, minimising RSI and has a soft-touch grip to reduce blistering. The handle offset optimises wrist posture, while mechanical advantage assists the user in comfortable tool operation over extended periods of time.
Industry scientists, stock agents and journalists were interviewed and several visits were undertaken with farmers with varied farm locations and sizes to understand current docking processes. A survey was distributed to three hundred respondents and interactive workshops were also undertaken. Early models explored the initial form. Tested by a specific range in ergonomic percentiles, the models were designed with interchangeable and adjustable parts, allowing for a diverse variety of configurations. A docking simulation was used throughout testing to assess the design under the appropriate conditions and weights were used to simulate weight distribution. Particular focus in materiality, maximising heat retention and weatherproofing the tool was investigated. Further simulations examined the effectiveness of several flame-sheltering systems. A series of steel shafts were developed, while also a series of copper blades were tested for levels of heat retention at different forms and sizes. A sensitivity to aesthetics in this industry was an extremely important design consideration. Existing industry products and related brands were explored. Developed heavily through sketching, the final aesthetic presents cues of familiarity, while utilising materials and form to communicate resilience, performance and simplicity.
How it is different
Once stress inducing, hazardous and frustrating, Moray offers farmers with a tool that is fast, easy to use and effortlessly effective. Compared with the current tool, it features a 22% length decrease, a 35% weight reduction and a 60% reduction in handspan travel. Mechanical advantage provides effortless tool manipulation and greatly reduces risk of RSI found commonly among aging farmers. Moray is piezoelectric igniting and has a specialised double-chamber dampening shaft for reliable weather-proofing and consistent blade temperatures for clean cauterisation. Effective docking significantly reduces lamb morality & means for productive, healthy stock, adding huge financial margin at the end of the season and enhances stock wellbeing foremost. It improves wool quality produced, prevents infection and streamlines shearing. At an estimated retail of $600, Moray competes respectively with the current $530 docking tool, but provides incomparable profit long term.
In recent months and off the back of limited media coverage, this project has received a large amount of interest from both international and national agricultural companies, organisations and individual farmers. I have had a number of farmers around the country showing a steady interest in the design, contacting me directly with keen interest to be involved in testing. In progressing the design I will continue to focus on areas that need continued refinement. I hope to gain financial support to help fund the next phase of the project's development that will enable collaborative work with product engineering knowledge and facilities.