ID tech­nol­ogy keeps track of huge flock

Narrogin Observer - - News - This case study was funded by the De­part­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­try and Re­gional Devel­op­ment and the Sheep In­dus­try Busi­ness Innovation project, which is sup­ported by Roy­al­ties for Re­gions. Men­tion of prod­uct names should not be taken as en­dorse­ment or re­com

With one of the biggest sheep flocks in the Great South­ern, Gnowangerup­based pro­ducer Wayne Pech needs to un­der­stand the po­ten­tial of in­di­vid­ual an­i­mals within his 13,300ha land­hold­ing. He does it with the help of elec­tronic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

With his wife Jody, par­ents Ken and Ju­dith and seven per­ma­nent farm staff, Mr Pech will join 16,500 Merino ewes to Merino and Suf­folk sires in the up­com­ing sea­son.

Rams for the farm’s Merino breed­ing pro­grams are home­bred from two sep­a­rate nu­cleus flocks, thanks to se­men sales by Bar­loo and Wood­yarrup Merino studs.

This in­vest­ment means pro­duc­tiv­ity op­ti­mi­sa­tion is es­sen­tial and un­der­stand­ing the po­ten­tial of ev­ery an­i­mal in the pad­dock makes a huge dif­fer­ence.

Their aim is to ac­com­plish a 90 per cent (or higher) lamb­ing per­cent­age, pro­duce sheep with good con­for­ma­tion and sur­vival abil­ity and to cut 8kg of 20-21 mi­cron wool per head.

Ob­jec­tive mea­sure­ments recorded by the EID sys­tem give Mr Pech the abil­ity to cull sheep based on their ge­net­ics and per­for­mance fac­tors to speed ge­netic gain within the over­all flock.

The Pech fam­ily has in­tro­duced a se­lec­tion in­dex based on key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors, in­clud­ing greasy fleece weight, fleece yield, fi­bre di­am­e­ter, prog­eny weight gain, eye muscle depth and worm re­sis­tance.

It started in 2015, when lambs from both nu­cleus flocks and Merino ewe lambs from the com­mer­cial flock were tagged with EID. Three age groups are now tagged and new lambs will be tagged each year.

The fam­ily bought a three-way auto drafter six years ago, and re­cently added a touch in­di­ca­tor screen and stick reader to the kit.

Data cap­tured by the tags is col­lected through­out the pro­duc­tion sys­tem, in­clud­ing the body weights of com­mer­cial and nu­cleus ewe hoggets at wean­ing and at 10-11 months of age and the muscle scan­ning of com­mer­cial and nu­cleus ewe hoggets.

Data also in­cludes worm egg counts for in­di­vid­ual ram lambs in the nu­cleus flocks and fleece test­ing for weight, mi­cron and yield when shear­ing Merino ewes and rams at 18 months of age.

Once an­a­lysed, the mea­sure­ments are com­bined and a score for each an­i­mal is cal­cu­lated us­ing a weighted in­dex and the sheep is ranked. EID is also used at preg­nancy scan­ning.

En­dur­ing yearly costs in­clude the tags, the labour as­so­ci­ated with data col­lec­tion and ser­vices for data anal­y­sis, which is pro­vided by a New South Wales-based ad­vi­sory ser­vice.

It has been es­ti­mated it will take the Pechs five years to pay back the ini­tial in­vest­ment.

“I re­ally ad­mire what the dairy in­dus­try has done with EID,” he said.

“We’re al­ready see­ing a re­sult from our in­vest­ment, es­pe­cially in terms of the feed­lot and our abil­ity to tar­get feed-spe­cific lines of lambs.” LA.

ONE Eco­nom­ics and Con­sult­ing busi­ness an­a­lyst Lucy An­der­ton con­ducted a case study of the fam­ily’s use of EID. Ms An­der­ton said the Pechs’ be­lieve they will achieve higher growth rates by us­ing elec­tronic ear tags and by mak­ing se­lec­tions ac­cord­ing to the as­so­ci­ated in­dex.

She said the ben­e­fits of higher growth rates were higher wean­ing weights and the po­ten­tial for lambs to spend fewer days be­ing hand fed.

Pic­tures: Bob­bie Hink­ley

Gnowangerup farmer Wayne Pech.

The stick reader.

A bar code scan­ner and printer.

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