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Gate hurdles and other wrinkles

Gate Hurdle

The Gawmless End gate hurdleHandling sheep without the use of a dog is easy enough if you have them trained to follow a bucket of fodder, but hurdles are essential to make temporary penning and race arrangements for convenient handling. They are easily tied together with baler twine - but untying this each time you enter or leave the makeshift pen then becomes a nuisance. The GAWMLESS END gate hurdle is an idea we have developed ourselves and which we have never seen elsewhere.
The design
We make ours from the best ends of planks rescued from the "firewood" pile. This tends to be five- or six-inch wide by three-quarter-inch thick timber, but you could use three-by-two inch spars for the uprights, or you could simply use a 40" x 60" piece of exterior-grade plywood, but this is usually relatively expensive, and heavy. Sheep are hard on hurdles: we used to use screws but now we bolt the hurdles together. Also they fiddle with the gate catch, so a "safety catch" of some sort often becomes necessary (a chain with a catch like on a dog's lead would be ideal). You can always use baling string, of course!
We find that optimum size for ease of handling is 40" high by 60" long. Any lower and athletic sheep may jump over; any bigger and the hurdle becomes too heavy.
  • Of strong timber, you need four uprights 40" long, plus EITHER three planks of 60" long and one about 64" long for the strengthening diagonal - OR alternatively a piece of 60" x 16" wide outdoor-quality plywood representing the whole of the bottom panel
  • A piece of outdoor-quality plywood for the gate, about 20" x 24" (you can make the gate of planks but this is fiddly and heavier)
  • Some short pieces of planking or plywood for the slats each side of the gate, 19 or 20" long
  • A gate latch or bolt - plus we recommend a safety chain
  • A pair of hinges
  • Ten or so bolts of a quarter of an inch diameter, with nuts and washers (threaded bar cut to length is much more convenient if you are using reclaimed timber in uneven thicknesses)
  • Screws for the gate fitments and horizontal slats (you can bolt the hinges on if you like)
  • A hole-cutter saw for the tying holes.
  • Make the framework first, attaching the four uprights to the bottom spar so that the gap between the middle two is about 23". Solid-plank from the bottom to about 15" up for strength.
  • On the other side, fix the diagonal from one bottom corner to as far up on the opposite side as it will go without cutting into the gate space (if you used plywood for this section the diagonal is not necessary).
  • Finish the framework by screwing short horizontal slats across at either side of the gate on the same side as the planking.
  • Attach the gate - in practice it is not critical which side the gate's hinges go. The gate will overlap the upright on its catch side (more difficult for a sheep to break the catch by pressing on the gate from that side then) so you may need to mount part of the catch fixing on a short length of wood attached to the upright.
  • Drill an inch-and-a-half diameter hole at each of the four corners for tying baler twine through.

Lightweight hurdle

The design
Using 5" x three-quarter-inch thick planking, a useful lightweight hurdle can be constructed. This sort of timber is easier to bolt together and staple netting to than spars, but 3" x 2" timber could be used as an alternative.
As above, 40" x 60" tends to be a handy size
  • You will need two lengths at 40", two at 60", and a piece about 68" long for the diagonal.
  • The middle can be a 60"-long piece of sheep netting (chicken wire will not be strong enough). This will not fill the hurdle vertically but this will not matter. However, we have had good results using old chain-link fencing wire for which we were trying to find a use at the time. This tends to be useless as sheep fencing because you have to string the top and bottom on plain wire, (which sags so that the animals escape), or on horizontal spars, which runs expensive. On hurdles it can be used to fill in the full height of the hurdle and stapled on all four sides. Remember to staple it to the diagonal also because it bellies out where the sheep poke it.
  • Six quarter-inch diameter bolts for the joints, made out of threaded bar cut to custom lengths, plus nuts and washers
  • Screws so that each joint can have at least one bolt and one screw (stops it twisting)
  • Staples for the netting
  • Fix the spars in a square (get the diagonal measurements the same), then cut the diagonal to size and fix it on
  • Staple on the netting


Penning Hurdle

The design
This one is easily made from planking. It is suitable for constructing a lambing pen, because the solid bottom provides some wind/draught protection for the animals. Dimensions are the same as for the other hurdle designs.
  • Three uprights forty inches long
  • Enough 60" long planks to solid-plank the bottom part to around eighteen to twenty inches and provide a top rail and one or two in-between horizontal slats above, depending on the width of the planking used - generally around six planks. The picture is really self-explanatory here
  • You could use a rectangle of plywood for the bottom (solid) part (the hurdle needs no strengthening diagonal as it is quite rigid.)
  • Bolts (or threaded rod cut to size) with nuts and washers, numbers according to the number of planks, and therefore joints, you will have. We find at least six bolts are necessary - one at each corner and one at each end of the plank which forms the top of the solid part.
  • Screws for the rest of the construction.
  • Hole-cutter saw to make tying holes at the bottom.
  • Fix together two uprights and four horizontals in a square as for the lightweight hurdle.
  • Add the middle upright on the same side as the other uprights.
  • Solid-plank the bottom part and space out the remaining planks to fill the gap at the top.
  • Drill tying holes at bottom corners

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