Setting up a Pedigree MatchMaker

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. This enables traceability of an individual animal pedigree.

The software was designed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), which ceased operations in June 2019.

How it works

PMM 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.

Because it's the natural tendency of lambs to follow closely behind their mother (see Figure 1), the software is designed to predict the association between ewe and lamb as they pass through.

Ewe passing through a narrow gap constructed in a paddock fence with lambs following closely behind

Equipment required

Example of a single file walkway built from steel posts and timber rails that frame a narrow gap in a paddock fence. The panel reader is attached to the outside of the wooden rails and the wires protected from sheep by another metal fence.

  • Electronic NLIS sheep tags to be applied to all ewes and lambs within the flock
  • Panel reader
  • Data logger or 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

Setting up your PMM

Sheep flow is critical to success. Start training ewes as early, and for as long as possible. 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 don't need an elaborate setup — all you need is sheep flow.

Get ewes used to fencing

You'll get better results if ewes are exposed to the PMM setup or other single entry point systems around attractants before or throughout lambing.

Introduce the temporary fence panels gradually. Place self-feeders or other attractant in corner of the paddock (Figure 4), and progressively fence off to a single entry point over time.

This will help ewes get used to the equipment and reduce the fear of walking through the single file entrance.

One half of the single file walkway created out of two steel posts joined by horizontal timber rails

Tag ewes and lambs

Make sure all ewes have electronic NLIS sheep tags before lambing.

Apply electronic NLIS sheep tags to all offspring at lamb marking. Lambs follow their mother more closely at a younger age, so you'll get better results when recording can begin with lambs at a young age.

Add panel reader and data logger

Add panel reader and data logger and begin recording results. Introduce data capture equipment and batteries as early as possible to allow all sheep to investigate over time.

The more time that ewes and lambs can be exposed to the equipment before recording, the better the result is likely to be.

Protect wires and silence equipment

If possible, turn off all sounds produced by the electronic NLIS sheep tag reader, as 'beeps' can impact upon sheep movement.

Protect all wiring and equipment with additional fence panels as sheep will chew them.

When you start recording

  • Change battery daily, or as often as required.
  • Download data at regular intervals (for example, weekly).
  • Collect data for 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Have the data analysed by an accredited PMM analyst.

Keep in mind

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 in doubt, record more data.

Page last updated: 01 Feb 2024