Trialing electronic ear tags and ASBV’s

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The SIBI project together with the Northern Agri Group coordinated a sheep technology field day on Tuesday 19 September, hosted by Mulga Springs Poll Merino Stud, Northampton.

The field day heralded the conclusion of a 12 month SIBI subproject looking into the ease of implementation of electronic identification (EID) and demonstrating the spin off effect of establishing Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) into a stud business.

The SIBI subproject came about in part due to the low adoption level of EID and genetic technology amongst WA producers with the perceived inhibitors being cost, lack of economic benefit and complexity. As a result, more producers were increasing the level of cropping and reducing flock size.

In a bid to improve sheep productivity, SIBI’s role has been to promote improved genetic breeding programs by increasing the adoption of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs), which coupled with EID technology, provides an avenue to overcome the inhibitors.

Over a 12 month period, Mulga Springs Poll Merino Stud was used as a demonstration site to adopt both EID and ASBVs.

SIBI’s Melanie Dowling, who advocates the use of ASBVs and liaised with the stud throughout the process, said “The stud was used as a case study to demonstrate how simple and user-friendly the process of adopting EID and ASBVs can be. Owner Jessica Horstman briefed the field day audience about her learnings over the last 12 months, including the positives and negatives of investing in the technology.”

Jessica said “We’ve reported a range of really strong benefits to the business, and the experience has inspired me to invest in more labour saving systems including a sheep handler, due to a clear demonstration of the benefits of using ASBVs and EID.”

The field day provided information on planning a solid feed budget regime for the summer ahead, ensuring good Lifetime Ewe Management processes are in place, demonstration of the importance of using ASBVs and the profitability spin off of buying rams with ASBVs, looking to the future of fitbit sensors to help pedigree and track animals and a practical demonstration of EIDs and labour saving equipment.

Mel added “Of the 30 producers at the field day, 70% indicated they would make changes to their enterprises in light of the experiment and supporting information.

“One of Jessica’s most important take home messages is to put time into training with the technology before you invest to ensure the most appropriate system is purchased.

“Jessica was excited by the ability to manage her animals not just on visual scores but on breeding values so that they aren’t carrying non profitable sheep, something that is especially important in a tight season such as 2017.”

For more information on ASBVs, please contact Melanie Dowling at melanie.dowling@dpird.wa.gov.au. For information on EID technologies, contact SIBI’s John Paul Collins on john.collins@dpird.wa.gov.au.

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