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Beyond the Bale : September 2011
September 2011 BEYOND THE BALE 28 ON-FARM FAST FACTS l Individual animal performance is driving the profitability of NSW Central West farmers Ray and Belinda Haighs' enterprise. l The Haighs are using electronic RFID tags, electronic tag reading and computerised record management, an auto-drafter and weighing unit. l Ray has shared his experience of Precision Sheep Management via the Sheep Connect NSW network and the Sheep CRC. Precision sheep management Astep into the world of high-tech livestock identification and weighing is opening up a realm of new opportunities to drive sheep production for NSW Central West farmers Ray and Belinda Haigh. Presenting at a Sheep Connect NSW Industry Update at Yass, NSW last month, Ray said that his decision to invest in Precision Sheep Management (PSM) and use electronic RFID tags has worked so well that that it paid for itself in two years, and it's now a case of exploring what other benefits it can bring. The Haighs run a sheep enterprise on their 2000 hectare 'Macquarie View' via Trangie. "In 2005, we started seriously looking at what we needed to do to keep ahead of the cost-price squeeze -- the cost of Merino ewes, inputs and operating expenses was rising rapidly. Things could not stay the way they were! "We decided to go hard on reproduction -- it is the single most important factor for our profitability, and there is so much that can be done to increase outputs and reduce costs. "We also decided that we needed to farm with more precision. In a previous job, I had learnt that if you wanted to be able to improve something, you had to be able to measure it." Ray said from the range of options available it was clear that the PSM system -- electronic RFID tags, electronic tag reading and computerised record management, an auto-drafter and weighing unit -- was the way to go. "The concept of precision management is not really new in agriculture, it's been around in cropping for quite a time. The same principles apply; it's just that with sheep we are using it to better manage the individuals, rather than the mob. "Besides, I'm red/green colour blind, so picking the difference between faded colour ear-tags in a dusty yard is a bit of an issue! "All ewes and lambs now have RFID tags, which can be re-used up to five times depending on how they are treated." Ray said animal age is no longer a dominating factor in the operation - ewes arenotputona truck anymore simply because they've turned five. They are sold or kept on the basis of how they contribute to farm profit. "We have some eight-year olds here now, and we might even keep some on for another year yet if they lamb-down well." "IN 2005, WE STARTED SERIOUSLY LOOKING AT WHAT WE NEEDED TO DO TO KEEP AHEAD OF THE COST- PRICE SQUEEZE -- THE COST OF MERINO EWES, INPUTS AND OPERATING EXPENSES WAS RISING RAPIDLY. THINGS COULD NOT STAY THE WAY THEY WERE!" RAY HAIGH Ray Haigh from Trangie, NSW has seen improvements to his bottom line after using Precision Sheep Management.