New, improved and robust electronic identification and recording technology now allows sheep producers to manage their sheep more precisely and practically.
Electronic weigh scales interfacing with RFID tags and recording equipment has replaced the tedious paper-based process that yielded numerous errors during manual tag-reading and recording.
Automatic drafting adds a new dimension, with equipment able to draft up to 11 ways on any parameter you choose, including previously recorded data (such as sire group) or weights being taken as the sheep step into the weigh crate.
A range of equipment has been in use by the Sheep CRC over many years with feedback provided to manufacturers. Today the products available are robust and reliable.
Cost-effective, electronic, ear tags can be used with a wand or panel reader and an indicator unit connected to load bars under a weigh crate to rapidly and accurately weigh large numbers of sheep.
The same equipment can be used for other purposes (some may require extra components and software):
In the shearing shed to weigh fleeces
To record particular information, such as classing or condition scores, for individual sheep.
In-paddock or feedlot walk over weighing.
For matching ewes with their lambs (Pedigree MatchMaker).
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.