Individual animal management
- Individual animal management
- Measurement based selection and management
- Individual weight recording.
Electronic identification (EID) introduces new opportunities for sophisticated individual animal management at farm level.
In the Australian sheep industry, traditionally all data collection and animal management occurs on a mob by mob basis. Through the on-farm use of electronic national livestock identification system (NLIS) sheep tags, animals can be monitored and managed individually throughout their lifetime.
Tag reading equipment, scales, automatic drafting systems and computer management software is now available which allows producers to read tags and match that tag with all relevant information to that animal and its performance. Depending on your own management needs, records could include:
- breeding history
- weight gain
- vaccine and parasite control history and relevant withholding periods
- supplement history
- fibre diameter measurements
- pregnancy scanning data.
The technology that is currently available allows the producer to reap the benefits of basing decisions on the performance of an individual animal with an efficiency and practicality that is impossible with manual systems.
The primary aim of an individual animal management system is to inform decision making, to identify the passengers in the system and remove them, while providing the opportunity to capitalise on the very best performers.
An example of simple EID use is the recording of pregnancy status for individual ewes. Simply knowing the pregnancy status of a ewe from one year to the next provides feedback on management and allows selection pressure to be applied. If there is an obvious trend of twin bearing ewes returning as single bearing the following year, then there may be changes to the way they are managed after lambing to provide them the best opportunity to conceive twins the following year.
If there is a tough season and a need to reduce numbers then, rather than selling an age group, an option would be to sell all those ewes which have only conceived singles each year. This takes a culling event that would have been a disappointing drop in numbers and turns it into an opportunity to improve the average performance potential of ewes run on the property.
Individual animal management
Within any flock, there is considerable genetic and phenotypic variation. It is through this natural variation that individual selection of superior animals allows more rapid improvement in the productivity and profitability of a commercial flock.
Figure 1: Example of the distribution of animal performance within a flock for a given trait(s)
Figure 2: Sheep selection methods
Under traditional mob-based management (left), much of this variation remains within the flock throughout their time on the property. The use of individual animal management (right) is designed to maximise returns from the most productive animals within the flock, whilst minimising the cost incurred from the least productive.
EID is not a silver bullet, it simply makes all the necessary data collection, more accurate, more labour efficient, easier, and therefore more likely to occur.
Measurement based selection and management
EID is a tool used with measurement based selection and management.
EID makes the collection of individual fleece data such as micron and fleece weight more accurate and more efficient. Most importantly, it makes the use of this data for animal selection and culling significantly easier. You can rank your flock on fleece value, cull the worst performers and capitalise on the most profitable sheep. Not only that, but you can combine this information with reproductive performance to discover the animals delivering real profitability to your business. No more passengers.
Prime lamb producers
How valuable would it be to know which ewes within your prime lamb 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 EID system that utilises electronic NLIS (sheep) tags.
Pedigree MatchMaker is a walk-by system that utilises electronic NLIS (sheep) tags to estimate associations between ewes and their lambs, and enable traceability of 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. This 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.
Individual weight recording
- How much variation is there in growth rates?
- How much variation is there in the weight gain or loss of your ewes on a "maintenance ration"?
EID allows you to track individual growth rates rather than just the mob average. Weighing is a task that you already undertake. EID makes the information even more useful.