Stock & Land

Identify leaders and under-performers in the flock

Image: Pooginook Merino and Poll Stud.

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Flock averages such as weight, fibre diameter and reproductive traits are data sets commonly recorded by producers, however being able to drill down further to individual variations can take operations to a new level, which only individual identification can provide.

Victorian sheep farmer and Allflex territory sales manager Jack Briscoe, who runs a self-replacing Merino flock on the outskirts of Geelong, Victoria, said: "Keeping an entire age group for the lifetime under the same criteria can be costly if they're underperforming.

With EID the best performing individuals can be retained and this can have significant changes on the flock's performance.

- Jack Briscoe

"With electronic identification the best performing individuals can be retained and this can have significant changes on the flock's performance."

$4.12 return for every dollar invested

Not only can it be costly to retain the under-performers in a flock, which can bring the average down, identifying and retaining the top performers can increase returns.

According to a study published in 2019 by Meat and Livestock Australia, electronic identification (EID) provides a 35 per cent return on investment.**

The study showed an average cost benefit of $4.12 return for every dollar invested "by using EID to improve breeding and selection decisions across Merino and crossbred/composite type enterprises."

Start small for big insights

Jack said there's a perception that sheep EID requires a large outlay and investment, or it's too hard to record.

In his opinion, this couldn't be further from the truth.

"For a simple set-up and low-cost spend, you can get a clear idea of who your top and worst performers, which is worth the investment," Jack said.

Belinda Steers, livestock data specialist, who has collated data for studs across Australia for almost 20 years agrees.

"For producers who are thinking about moving from visual management tags to EID and don't know where to start or think there needs to be a big outlay, I'd say to them it doesn't have to be a huge outlay to begin.

"Start simple. Get yourself a stick reader such as the Allflex RS420, attach EIDs to your flock such as the Allflex RapID tags, download the data onto your computer into the Excel spreadsheet.

"The reader will help reduce transcription errors and save time and labour in the yards and increase your accuracy. Back in the office, choose one or two measurements that will help you improve production, such as pregnancy status, weaning weights, breeding weights or growth rates.

"Record the measurement to the individual's EID to identify the superior performers and form the basis of your breeding future," Belinda said.

The Autosteer for flock management

When asked about EID use in the industry Jack said: "More and more producers are jumping on board with sheep EID as they see it helping their on-farm management.

"I liken it to how autosteering tractors in the cropping industry were, back in the day, a far-fetched idea, but are now a necessity for many running a profitable cropping operation.

"Allflex's sheep EID is the autosteer for flock management."

Lifting the average in sheep flocks

Rick Robertson, who along with wife Jenny runs Gracemere Merinos in Bengworden, south east Victoria, and The Weekly Times/Coles 2020 farmer of the Year nominee said on the value of EID for his operation: "I have been using Allflex Sheep Rapid Tag EIDs for about a year.

"I use the Allflex Sheep RapidTag EIDs for recording individual data such as fleece weights, micron and fleece data.

"I can look up the data on each individual ram and see if it was from a twin or single bearing ewe and sire to determine which animals are more likely to throw these characteristics in their offspring.

"The data can be given to the buyers to help support their ram selection alongside the wool tests or visual assessments to lift the average performance of their mobs," he said.

Still the tag of choice for Aussie sheep producers

Based on 2020 NLIS market share data, Allflex electronic sheep tags are the tags of choice for Aussie Sheep producers.

Allflex Australia business unit lead Jane Parker said this position is achieved because the company continues to evolve and meet producers' needs.

"Building on our proven and trusted experience identifying and monitoring livestock worldwide for over 65 years, we continue to innovate our design, development, manufacture and delivery of animal identification, monitoring and farm management solutions to put intelligent, actionable management data into the farmer's hands," Jane said.

She said sheep EID is becoming a popular farm management tool for sheep producers outside of the mandated scheme in Victoria.

"More and more producers are seeing the benefits of switching from visual management tags to EID tags to easily and accurately collect individual data across their flocks and make better farm management decisions."

  • ** Project code: L.LSM.0011, prepared by Hamish Dickson, AgriPartner Consulting Pty Ltd, published May 10, 2019.