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Beyond the Bale : December 2016
“T he Australian sheep and wool industry is in a very exciting place at the moment. From auto-drafting based on electronic identification tags to monitoring sheep using drones, there are lots of new technologies coming available that will influence how producers run their businesses. Furthermore, there is more producer engagement now than there has ever been.” So says consultant Nathan Scott of Achieve Ag Solutions in Geelong who gave an inspiring and entertaining presentation at this year’s BESTWOOL/BESTLAMB conference on ways producers can get motivated to make a real difference to their business. BESTWOOL/BESTLAMB is AWI’s producer network in Victoria. “We are nowhere near what is physiologically and biologically possible with sheep yet, so there will be plenty more opportunities for the sheep industry,” he said. “But the responsibility for adoption and management – whether it’s improving conception rates or easier sheep handling – sits with us, producers. It’s our industry, it’s our future, we shouldn’t blame others. “People who say farmers can’t change are wrong! Farmers are very interested in opportunities and are wanting to change. But as an industry we’ve got to get better at how we adopt new technologies and concepts. It’s important that people equip themselves with the right tools so they can implement change quickly, efficiently and as confidently as they can, without adding more risk to their business.” Nathan advised producers to concentrate on aspects of their business that can largely be brought under their control. “There are various things that will always sit outside our control and be a concern for us, such as weather and prices. Our aim should be to bring under our control and influence as many things as we can, such as genetics, pastures, nutrition, labour, animal welfare and pests.” MAKING TASKS TIME-BOUND Nathan says producers should have a clear plan of what they want to implement within their business. “However, the problem is that if you simply put together a high level ‘to-do list’ of say half a dozen things that you want to improve – such as increase lamb survival or drought proof your farm – each of those tasks are very broad, which most likely will lead to you procrastinating. “You could break down each of the broad tasks into more detailed tasks – tasks that you can actually achieve – but then the problem is that your list grows dauntingly large, and because of the ‘paradox of choice’ you are unlikely to make any decision on which task to do. “So I recommend to start using a calendar, such as a wall chart. It must be very visible, and in a place where you will look at it regularly. Put time frames around each of the detailed tasks, tie tasks to an end point. If you are a procrastinator, making tasks time-bound will help make things happen. “When you complete a task and cross things off the calendar, you’ll get a hit of the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain, which drives motivation to do the next task and so on.” THE RIGHT MINDSET Nathan says success is largely governed by optimism, and the ability to see stress as a challenge rather than a threat. “Making change is about having the right mindset to achieve things and applying yourself; it’s not about the level of IQ. “Don’t aspire to be average, aspire to be the best. Averages can be deceptive – remember the warning about the man who drowned crossing a stream with an average depth of six inches!” MORE INFORMATION Nathan’s presentation is available to view for free via the BESTWOOL/BESTLAMB website www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/ bestwool-bestlamb GET MOTIVATED AND MAKE CHANGE Consultant Nathan Scott says sheep producers should have a clear written down plan on how they intend to make positive changes to their businesses and, importantly, put time frames around completing tasks. SHEEP ELECTRONIC IDENTIFICATION Nathan Scott demonstrating the use of electronic ear tags at a Central Murray BESTWOOL/BESTLAMB Group event. Nathan is reading the tag reader to find out the lambing history of a ewe – this ewe had a history of 2,2,2,2 (twins every year), whereas the next ewe read 1,1,1,0 (singles every year, then did not raise a lamb). PHOTO: Caroline Ellis Photography. According to sheep specialist Nathan Scott of Achieve Ag Solutions, new technologies such as electronic identification (EID) tags have the capacity to make managing sheep easier and more profitable. “In most commercial sheep enterprises, data collection and animal management have traditionally occurred on a mob by mob basis. However through the use of Radio Frequency Identification tags, animals can be monitored and managed individually throughout their life,” Nathan says. “The use of individual animal management is designed to maximise returns from the most productive animals within the flock, whilst minimising the cost incurred from the least productive.” For wool producers, Nathan says 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!” The most basic EID systems can help producers in the counting and recording of stock when they are handled, together with any treatments that they may receive. “While EID makes all the necessary data collection more accurate, more labour efficient, easier, and therefore more likely to occur, it isn’t a silver bullet or a golden goose; it is simply another tool to use within your management system,” Nathan points out. MORE INFORMATION www.achieveag.com.au 30 ON FARM
In the Shops - March 2017