Decisions aided by RFID tags

Decisions aided by RFID tags

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For Brenton Palmer, Yarrami, Manoora, making decisions regarding the management of his sheep flock has been made significantly easier with the use of radio frequency identification tags.

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For Brenton Palmer, Yarrami, Manoora, making decisions regarding the management of his sheep flock has been made significantly easier with the use of radio frequency identification tags.

Mr Palmer, along with wife Chris and children Karen and Ross, runs 650 self-replacing Merino ewes, and crops about 365 hectares of wheat, beans, canola, and export hay, as well as lupins and oats for sheep feed.

He has been using Shearwell electronic wraparound RFID tags for nearly eight years.

The tags, inserted into the ears of his ewe lambs at their second vaccination - about weaning time - contain a microchip that is read with a Tru-Test XRS2 EID Stick Reader, with information such as micron, staple length, bodyweight and fleeceweight then easily able to be recorded against the animal's ID number, as read by the reader.

Mr Palmer said the tags were particularly useful when classing ewe hoggets, and determining which ones to keep for his self-replacing flock.

"We bring them in and visually class them, and take out about a third, and then we do a micron test, and a wool weight, and after shearing we do a bodyweight. From this we can generate a Rampower Index, then from that we bring the sheep down to the ewe hoggets I want to keep," he said.

It's more a case of limiting it down to just what you want to use. - BRENTON PALMER

Mr Palmer said recording the values against the scanned ID made it easier to keep track.

"Scanning RFID tags makes it easier because you've really got to put the (fleece and weight values for the hoggets) on the computer in the end anyway, to work out how they rank top and bottom," he said.

The Palmers also electronically record the pregnancy status of ewes. Dry ewes are sent to the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin, as are those that don't raise a lamb, and Karen said culling decisions were made easier using the RFID tags.

"We can scan them with the stick reader, and work out why they are a cull, and why we're sending them away, and even if you put them out as a mixed mob, in different age groups, with different reasons that they're getting sold, you can scan them and know why they're getting sold," she said.

"So from that, if we (need to retain sheep), we can scan and see if a ewe had a lamb but didn't raise it, and if so, we could keep her and she could have another go."

Mr Palmer pays $1.55 for the RFID tags, as opposed to normal Leader tags costing him 37 cents, and while he believes the extra cost is worth it for the ewe hoggets, wether lambs receive the Leader tags.

"With the wethers, we just fatten them up and sell over-the-hooks, they're gone within 12 months anyway," he said.

Many possibilities for future tech use

Radio frequency identification ear tags have improved the ability of Manoora's Brenton Palmer to keep track of measurements and values within his sheep flock, but he said it was important not to record surplus unnecessary data.

"It's more a case of limiting it down to just what you want to use," he said.

"You can record mountains of data against the RFID tags, and spend ages doing it, when all you really want is micron and wool cut."

While surplus data collection was not beneficial, Mr Palmer said there was potential to utilise the RFID technology even further in the future, possibly by using fixed tag readers on weigh scales.

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"Instead of having to use the stick reader to scan every sheep when they are in the crate, the sheep is automatically scanned by the fixed tag reader, making it more efficient," he said.

"We're heading that way."

Mr Palmer said automatic drafting setups were also a possible future direction.

"The tag is automatically scanned, and depending on how you set it up will draft sheep into different mobs without someone having to manually do it," he said.

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