Stock Ezy is a new family-owned business aimed at making life easier for the farmer through what Sean Blenkin says are relatively simple innovations to help with some of the more physical tasks on-farm.
His latest Kiwi number 8 wire solution for the sheep yards bottleneck, the flow-control gate, earned him the runner-up status in the South Island Agricultural Field Days (SIAFD) agri-innovation awards.
The former shearer and farmworker knows the struggles that do not change from one year to the next.
“Forty years ago, I was the one in the yards being yelled at by the farmer to keep the sheep flowing,” Blenkin said.
“Two years ago, I was back in the yards and the same problem still existed, so I set about doing something about it.”
Fresh out of his Masterton workshop came the flow-control gate, just in time for the annual field days rounds last month.
“I put this gate together and kept trialling it with farmers to develop it to the point where it did the job,” he said.
“It solved a problem, it saves the yelling, it eases the animal handling, eases the stress on the dog, and the sheep, and helps take the load off the farmers’ backs.”
The first outing for the flow-control gate was East Coast Field Days in the North Island, next came the Wanaka show, and then SIAFD.
“The orders coming in are quite overwhelming – it’s great for a new business, I’m not complaining,” he said.
“I’m in Auckland as we talk, trying to get the materials to make gates for the backlog of orders now.”
Blenkin describes the sheep yard flow-control gate as a simple innovation.
“It’s very basic, very simple, with length adjustment according to the stock. It’s spring-loaded so it returns to the centre every time a sheep passes, that’s why it keeps the flow going,” he said.
“As soon as one sheep baulks on the side it is going through, the other side opens up and the stock keeps flowing as the flow gate adjusts and the sheep on the other side see the gap and bolt through, and so it keeps on going.”
A long-time shearer, with real-life farm experience, Blenkin has also worked in Australia for an animal handling equipment company.
He has maintained his passion for the industry as he now works with farmers and shearing contractors to improve, perfect and develop new products.
“My designs come from the years of watching the behaviour of farmers and animals, and a good dose of common sense,” he said.
“Any equipment that speeds up the workflow, as well as eases animal handling, is a saving in time, labour and stress, and literally eases the job for all.”
When Blenkin started his business, New Zealand had just entered covid Level 4 lockdown.
“I couldn’t have started a new business at a worse time,” he said.
Despite this, he boxed on and business has boomed.
His first invention was the Stock Ezy cradle, a contraption for holding pregnant ewes.
While models of varying types have been around for many years, Blenkin brought the best features together in a design made for today’s sheep.
“With farmers aiming for multiple births, pregnant ewes are much heavier and there udders much bigger,” he said.
Blenkin designed a cradle frame of lightweight, easy-to-use, breathable fabric that is width and height adjustable, supporting ewes from 40-120kg.
“It took off like a hot cake,” he said.
He then set about solving a problem from his shearing days with a foldaway wool fadge pack holder.
Used for the 60th Golden Shears last year, the holder got very favourable reviews, cutting the fadge replacement time from three-and-half minutes to one minute.
“It’s a unique way of holding the fadge in place, is light, tough and structurally sound, with no weld joints or pins to lose, and you can fold it away,” he said.
Following requests form gardeners around NZ, Blenkin has added wheels to the design and added a floor to keep the fadge off the ground; it still folds up for easy storage and transport, and is now selling to gardeners nationwide.
It is also being used by recycling depots and lawn mowing contractors, and in several industrial applications.
Blenkin thoroughly tests everything he builds before it hits the market.
“I have a group of farmers who are happy to work and develop products with me, having this network helps,” he said.
“Without these farmers you’re buggered, I need their support to get the product completely right.”
To watch Blenkin’s designs in action go to www.stockezynz.com