Evaluate new monitoring systems that will be able to assess on an individual level the wellbeing of a sheep on commercial properties.
This work will involve three key measurement areas including: automated condition score, wool cortisol measures that may reflect resilience to stress and image analysis methodologies that will allow identification of animal’s compromised by lameness or flystrike or the identification of animals that deviate markedly from normal body temperature.
In these cases the objective is to automate data collection where possible and to identify technologies that will facilitate these measurements.
Automated measurement of condition score in off-shears animals using image analysis tools will standardise measurement across flocks and will also facilitate calculation of condition score change that could be utilized in the data platform to determine risk.
Measurement of body temperature changes in real time, facilitated through small RFID implants, will allow the identification of animals with a fever and provide priority rankings for treatment as will image analysis for lameness, flystrike and dags.
Recording full pedigree (sire and dam) will improve the rate of genetic gain in a ram breeding flock. Commercial producers are also interested in knowing dam pedigree as a way of monitoring individual reproductive performance in ewe flocks. Pedigree MatchMaker can be used in conjunction with sire joining records to determine pedigree and is less costly than DNA parentage tests or visually mothering-up lambs. In Sheep CRC trials, between 85–95% of lambs were matched to their dam with up to 96% accuracy using the Pedigree MatchMaker.
The Harvey family operate Gilgai Farms at Geurie in Central West NSW. They run a fine/superfine Merino flock and a Simmental beef herd on 2,800 hectares, which is grazed using Holistic Management principles.
The Harveys had been visually selecting, micron testing and fleece weighing their hoggets for some 15 years and were looking for the next productivity leap for their Merino flock. They decided to trial individual electronic identification technology so they could better identify highly productive animals for retention in the flock. Individual animal performance measures were collected prior to and at the 2015 ewe hogget shearing. For each ewe hogget the information collected was used to generate a Rampower Index Value and Ranking. This information was used to select replacement ewes for the flock and culls for sale.