New ways of predicting risk to sheep wellbeing and productivity will be developed based on an integration of past and present information about individual animals or segments of the flock.
This will be done through the development of a data platform that will provide the capacity to collect and collate information (eg liveweight, condition score, fleece weight, health treatments, rainfall, temperature etc.) from various sources including Farm management service providers and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
Using this information and in-built biophysical models (feed availability, internal parasite burden, flystrike, weather extremes) the platform will facilitate generation of risk profiles for individual animals or management groups.
This information will then be distributed to producers through farm management system providers or in a more generalised way through an APP and can be used to inform management decisions involving culling, nutrition and animal health treatment.
As part of the platform there will also be the capacity for the producers to use a Productivity index to rank animals on the basis of phenotypic information about wool production, growth and reproduction history.
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.