Capturing pregnancy status
Have you ever wondered what your ewes are doing from one year to the next? How much of the variation in performance is the ewe's fault, and how much is yours?
Simply collecting pregnancy data from one year to the next can allow you to understand the fluctuations in individual conception rates within your ewes, providing feedback on your management, as well as opportunities to apply selection pressure relating to conception.
Feedback on management
If a significant number of your ewes are scanning with twins in one year, and singles in the next, it may be the result of your twin bearing ewe management. To allow a twin bearing ewe the best opportunity to express that potential again in the following year she will require appropriate nutrition throughout her late pregnancy, lactation, and right through to joining. She will also require time to recover and a chance to replenish her energy stores, meaning that an appropriately timed weaning is an important component of the system.
Understanding what individual ewes are doing from one year to the next will provide the knowledge and power to influence the performance of your sheep enterprise. Make sure that you are managing your best performers to allow them the opportunity to deliver for you every year.
Applying selection pressure
As soon as you know the performance of individual animals you can start to apply selection pressure to lift the overall performance of the mob. This might simply be identifying the passengers within the system, or it could be that you are looking to identify the superior performers to form the basis of your breeding future.
Whichever is the case, knowing the pregnancy status of an individual ewe can tell you a lot about her likely contribution to the success of your sheep operation. This is especially relevant if you know that your management has allowed each ewe the best possible opportunity to express her potential.
Taking it to the next level
Pregnancy status alone, really only provides you with information on a ewe's potential performance, and not actual performance.
How valuable would it be to know which ewes within your enterprise produce the most kilograms of lamb each year?
Perhaps more importantly, how valuable would it be to know which ewes produce the least? This can be easily achieved with an electric identification (EID) system that uses NLIS (Sheep) tags.
Pedigree MatchMaker is a walk-by system that uses electronic NLIS (Sheep) tags to estimate associations between ewes and their lambs, and provide the ability to trace individual animal pedigree. Through the use of Pedigree MatchMaker and recording individual weaning weights, a ewe flock can be ranked based on the kilograms of lamb she has weaned.
Figure 1: Kilograms of lamb weaned per ewe
Figure 1 clearly shows the wide variation between ewes in a flock, which allows the producer to rank the flock based on kilograms weaned, culling the worst performers, and capitalising on the most profitable sheep. No more passengers.
Plan your system
The EID system that will suit your enterprise may be very different to that of your neighbours, or the one that someone is trying to sell you. For many producers, the use of a contractor to undertake major and or irregular tasks will be a much better investment than purchasing equipment which will sit unused for 11 months of the year.
Knowing your needs, and understanding the various equipment components will ensure that your system is efficient, and cost effective.