Implementing electronic identification (eID) and individual measurement has delivered both immediate and ongoing financial returns for Geurie, NSW, sheep producer, Eric Harvey.
The eID system allowed him to quickly identify high and low performing animals, with subsequent culling improving the overall flock value by $4/head.
Mr Harvey said this equated to a 35% return on his $7,850 investment in eID equipment and software, which will pay for themselves within three years.
“That return is just from the benefits of improved culling decisions,” Mr Harvey said. “We anticipate that using the equipment throughout the year to monitor things like live-weight, condition score and pregnancy status, will produce further benefits and reduce the payback period.”
The Harvey family operates Gilgai Farms which carries a fine/superfine Merino flock and a Simmental beef herd on 2,800 hectares.
The Harveys had been visually selecting, micron testing and fleece weighing their hoggets for 15 years but were looking for the next productivity leap for their Merino flock.
In a trial supported by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) and Meat & Livestock Australia’s Producer Demonstration Site program, they were able to test eID technology to measure individual animal performance and profitability.
The trial was run by consultant Mark Gardner, of Vanguard Business Services, who said the objective was to identify the Harvey’s most productive animals for retention in the flock and to remove their poorest performers.
Mr Gardner said individual animal performance measures were collected prior to and at the 2015 ewe hogget shearing for all of the key traits important to their breeding objective: fleece weight, staple length and strength, micron, pregnancy rate and live weight.
“Taking the time to sit down and fully describe the family’s breeding objective helped the Harveys identify the traits that would drive profit in the business and hence what should be measured in the flock and what sort of eID system should be purchased,” Mr Gardner said.
“For each ewe hogget the information collected was used to generate a Rampower Index Value and Ranking, and this information was used to generate a drafting list of ewes to be retained and those to be culled for sale after shearing.”
This eID-based cull was conducted after an initial cull based on a visual assessment for obvious physical faults.
The trial results showed that the average value of retained ewe hoggets was $126/hd, $10/hd more than the hoggets culled based on the information generated through eID.
“In terms of adding value to our assets on the balance sheet, this represented a $4/hd or 3.2% improvement across the average of the whole hogget flock,” Mr Harvey said.
Mr Gardner said the eID technology would continue to provide additional value throughout the year, and in future years, by recording information to support culling decisions as well as better management and wellbeing of lambing ewes.
“This change of focus from managing a flock to managing individual animals has created significant potential for enhanced financial returns,” he said.
“The long-term cumulative benefits of selecting more productive replacement ewes and increasing genetic gain are an additional benefit that eID technology will provide.”
For more detailed information on the Harvey’s eID trial, a Practical Wisdom note is available for download at www.sheepcrc.org.au.
Media contact: Michael Thomson on 07 4927 0805 / 0408 819 666