Pedigree MatchMaker (PMM) is a walk by system that uses electronic national livestock identification system (NLIS) sheep tags to record estimated associations between ewes and their lambs, enabling traceability of an individual animal pedigree.
The concept requires both ewes and lambs to carry an electronic NLIS sheep tag and uses an attractant such as water or grain to entice animals to walk single file through a narrow entrance to a fenced area. On the way through the entrance all tags are recorded by a panel reader and data logger.
Given the natural tendency of lambs to follow closely behind their mother (see Figure 1), the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) has developed software designed to predict the association between ewe and lamb.
Figure 1: Ewe passing through the single file entrance, with lambs following closely behind.
- Electronic NLIS sheep tags to be applied to all ewes and lambs within the flock.
- Panel reader/s.
- Data logger/indicator for tag recording.
- Power source – 12 volt batteries (solar panels optional).
- Attractant – water, loose licks, mineral blocks, feeder (grain).
- Temporary fencing panels – single entrance to be 1200mm long by maximum 600mm wide.
Figure 2: Panel reader in place ready to record. Note the simple entrance setup.
- Expose ewes to single entry point system around attractants wherever possible leading up to, or throughout lambing. This will help ewes become accustomed to the equipment and reduce the fear of walking through the single file entrance. Temporary fence panels should be introduced gradually. Better results will be achieved where ewes can be exposed to the PMM setup prior to lambing.
- Ensure that all ewes have electronic NLIS sheep tags prior to lambing.
- Apply electronic NLIS sheep tags to all offspring at lamb marking. Lambs follow their mother more closely at a younger age, so better results are likely where recording can begin with lambs at a young age.
- Place self-feeders or other attractant in corner of the paddock (Figure 4), and progressively fence off to a single entry point over time. The more time that animals can be exposed to the equipment prior to recording, the better the result is likely to be.
Figure 3: Simple set up. Steel posts and timber rails are a simple effective entrance to PMM set up.
- Add panel reader and data logger and begin recording results. Introduce data capture equipment, batteries etc., as early as possible to allow all sheep to investigate over time.
- Change battery daily, or as often as required.
- Download data at regular intervals (e.g. weekly).
- Collect data for 4–6 weeks.
- Have data analysed by an accredited PMM analyst.
Figure 4: Grain feeders used as attractant. Note the obvious signs of traffic through entrance to fenced area and around feeder.
Tips for success
- Sheep flow is critical to success. Training of sheep to walk through is vital. The ultimate aim is to get sheep walking of their own volition single file past a panel to record the electronic NLIS sheep tag numbers. You do not need an elaborate setup; all you need is sheep flow.
- Start training ewes as early, and for as long as possible.
- Every paddock and every flock will present a different set of variables that must be overcome to achieve effective sheep flow and data collection.
- If possible, turn off all sounds produced by the electronic NLIS sheep tag reader, as "beeps" introduce an additional stimulus which can impact upon sheep movement.
- Always protect all wiring and equipment with additional fence panels as invariably sheep will chew them.
- If in doubt, record more data.