(Previously published online with Agriculture Victoria)
Accurate identification of sheep
A Sheep Electronic Identification (EID) system uses an electronic ear tag or device, marking each animal with its own, individual identifying number. There are many potential flock and cost management benefits of EID for producers to utilize on the farm.
The EID tag or device contains a microchip that can be read electronically in a fraction of a second by producers who have a suitable reader (panel or handheld). With electronic reading, transcription errors can be eliminated saving both time and labor in the yards [and barns] whilst increasing the accuracy of your information.
Individual animal management
Within a flock there is a substantial variation in the characteristics that influence an animal’s production level. Identifying and understanding this variation provides opportunities to apply selection pressure, or better inform management decisions throughout the sheep enterprise.
Electronic tagging allows this variation to be captured through measuring the performance of individual animals and for the producer to apply decisions specific to that individual, reducing costs and labor, while at the same time maximizing returns.
Read more about individual animal management.
- Use of fiber diameter measurement in classing and selection
- Fleece weighing
- Pregnancy status each year
- Ram allocation
- Selecting stock for improved current and future production
- In a dual purpose enterprise it can be used for allocating ewes or lambs into wool and meat groups based on fiber diameter, fleece weight, and body weight.
- Use of weight records and individual growth rates to assist in meeting market specifications
- Pregnancy status each year
- Tracking specific bloodlines
- Pedigree MatchMaker to match ewes and lambs to calculate [weight] of lamb weaned per ewe
- Using carcass feedback to inform genetic and management decisions
- Ram selection and allocation to specific groups of ewes
- Selecting stock for improved current and future production.
Optimizing meat and wool
- Segmenting lambs into wool and meat groups based on fiber diameter and body weight
- Optimal number of ewes to mate to wool versus meat sires
- Enhance decisions on which ewe to mate to wool and meat sires based on production levels.
- Consideration of reproduction rate on selection strategies
- Optimal use of pregnancy scanning data
- Capturing pregnancy status using EID
- A guide to the use of Pedigree MatchMaker
- A guide to litter weight weaned
- Use of selective drenching
- Identifying poor performers in the flock.
The long term implications of EID for the wool and sheep meat industries are very exciting. As we have seen in the dairy and beef industries, the potential is there for greater efficiencies, improved genetic gain, as well as enhanced feedback and information availability, including product feedback, such as carcass quality. The industry implications of an electronic ID traceability system are currently being seen in the cattle industry. These include increased traceability of animals in the incidence of a disease outbreak and the ability to secure increasingly discerning national and international markets regarding disease and chemical freedoms. The European Union (EU) already demands lifetime traceability of all imported beef products and other markets are closely following suit.
With an EID system using electronic NLIS (sheep) tags you can record anything that can be measured objectively or subjectively. That said however, there are four key points in deciding what to record for your sheep enterprise:
- Only record data that will add value to the enterprise.
- Always keep data collection tasks as simple as possible.
- There is no point in collecting data unless you will actually use it.
- The more data you collect, the harder it is to manage.