WITH the SA Sheep Industry Blueprint making 100 per cent adoption of electronic identification a goal by 2030, Moses & Son Woolbroking Livestock Specialist and Tarcutta, NSW, farmer Lexi Cesnik explained to Gawler MLA MeatUp Forum attendees how the technology could best be utilised in a commercial sheep flock.
Ms Cesnik said that at its core, eID technology was just another tool for producers to use in improving the production of their flock and reaching goals. She said it was a more time- and labour-efficient method than physically recording measurements.
"By taking measurements on fleece weights, carcase values and lambing and recording them on an eID tag, we can identify which animals within a flock are high performing, high efficiency animals and which of those animals are going to drag the chain," she said.
"We want to select the high-performing sheep year in, year out to drive gains."
Mrs Cesnik said if producers were thinking of going down the precision livestock management path, it was important to have clearly-defined breeding objectives driving the decision of what data to collect.
One of the most useful applications of eID for a commercial ewe flock, according to Mrs Cesnik, was the recording of scanning results - dry, single or twin-bearing - followed up by the ewe's status at marking time.
"If a ewe turns up dry at marking or weaning time we can see that she's giving nothing back," she said.
"Having that eID technology gives us the ability to scan that ear tag and see a ewe's reproductive performance for her entire lifetime and base our culling decisions off that."
Mrs Cesnik used a client case to provide an example of improving a flock by using eID to assist in selection.
She said individual testing on micron, greasy fleece weight, a yield test and bodyweight was conducted on 1200 maiden ewes a year for a client with a self-replacing Merino ewe flock.
The carcase and clean fleece values for each ewe were measured and plotted on a graph to identify poor and standout performers to work towards a higher-performing flock.
"We found there was huge variation in performance even though it was a flock that was on the same genetic bloodline for more than 30 years," Mrs Cesnik said.
"We drafted off the bottom 200 ewes and had an increase of $10 a head value using the information we measured using eID tags. The poorer performers could then go to the terminal side of the enterprise to rear prime lambs instead."
Technology used to track feedlot average daily gains
MOSES & Son Woolbroking Livestock Specialist Lexi Cesnik, Tarcutta, NSW, said electronic identification technology had proved useful in a feedlot test case, helping identify slow growers and aiding selling decisions.
The weights of 26 lambs - in the same feedlot and allocated the same feed, the same labour unit and the same overhead costs - were recorded on a daily basis.
Lambs performed to varying degrees, with the top performer of the group gaining 15 kilograms in the recorded time period, while another only gained 5kg.
"They both reached a good goal weight, but the problem that I saw and that we should ponder from a business perspective is why did one slow right down?" Mrs Cesnik said.
"Could you have sold it four weeks prior and not had the costs of having it in the feedlot?"
Mr Cesnik said this was an example of how eID technology was a useful tool in getting sheep producers to "their destination".
"We have goals in our enterprises and how we get there and how quickly we get there is based on the tools we use to make important decisions," she said.
"I'm not about to tell you that everyone should go out and buy eID tags, because some producers I work with still have the old visual number printed on a tag, we get data and write down the information we're going to act on and then go dot those animals up the race with a bit of marker and draft them at the other end.
"It works, but the time efficiency and labour efficiency of those older methods are becoming highly questionable, especially when you think about the efficiency of eID technology.
"There's a lot of technology out there and a lot of companies providing that physical technology that you can implement."
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