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Beyond the Bale : Oct - Nov 08
Productivity Beyond The Bale Tags tuned to flock performance Electronic tags allow producers to select and manage animals on an individual basis, rather than as a flock. Now trials in Victoria are analysing the economics T he potentially wide-ranging benefits of using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in sheep enterprises are being investigated at six Victorian sites. In a three-year evaluation program, Mike Stephens and Associates (MSA) is working with the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to establish the tag-demonstration sites in commercial enterprises and analyse the economics. Historically Australian producers have managed flocks as a single entity. Yet MSA consultant Jim Shovelton says there are gains to be made from managing the flock’s individuals. “Sheep Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) research shows that the next big gains in productivity will be in managing the variation between individuals in the flock,” Jim says. “For example, it’s not unusual to find a variation in fleece value of up to $50 between the best and worst producing sheep in a flock.” The Sheep CRC, which is part funded by AWI, has also shown that there are significant differences between the performance of individual animals in feedlot finishing conditions. “If we can identify the really good performing and valuable animals and manage them appropriately, we can maximise productivity and profitability. Strategies can also be developed to minimise input costs for the worst performing animals. “The RFID tags allow producers to select and manage animals on individual merits. Individual animal management can be done in existing commercial enterprises, but without some level of automation, labour and time requirements are often unrealistic. “However, with reliable RFID tags, hardy scanning devices and associated equipment, like automatic SHEEPCRC PHOTOS: COuRTeSY QDPI&F Trials are being carried out in Victoria to assess the benefits of using radio frequency identification (rFid) tags. “ Sheep Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) research shows that the next big gains in productivity will be in managing the variation between individuals in the flock.” – jim shovelton drafting races and walk-over weighers, we have the tools to quickly and accurately collect, read and interpret the data, and develop and implement appropriate strategies based on a number of variables for each animal.” The role of RFID tags is being evaluated on-farm under fully commercial circumstances at the six sites. The RFID tag software and hardware are being installed now in shearing sheds and yards, producers are being trained in how to operate the equipment, and preliminary data will be in by the end of the year. “This will identify labour-saving potential, what E-Tag dEmoNsTraTioN aNd EValuaTioN siTEs iN VicToria SITe LOCATION SITe eNTeRPRISe Casterton Ballarat Euroa Benalla Swan Hill (x 2) Prime lamb production Self-replacing Merino and Merino to terminal sire lamb production Self-replacing Merino and Merino to terminal sire lamb production Self-replacing Merino and Merino to terminal sire lamb production Lamb finishing feedlots decisions are able to be made over and above those through traditional management, and what bottom- line benefits are obtained,” Jim says. “We fully expect farmers will be able to make better decisions on feeding and breeding.” Sheep CRC product development manager Mark Coupland says while these important demonstrations are occurring in a commercial setting it should also be remembered that RFID offers significant benefits to seed stock producers. “For studs that routinely measure a wide range of measured and visual traits, RFID tags can significantly reduce labour and increase the accuracy of data collection to accelerate genetic gain,” Mark says. “For commercial producers, RFID tags can also reduce labour while enabling better management to improve productivity and profitability. “The Sheep CRC encourages the sheep industry – from growers to service providers – to monitor these demonstration sites and consider the opportunities that arise with the adoption of this technology.” The electronic tags being used on demonstration SHEEPCRC properties are accredited for use nationally under the standard for visual National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) (Sheep & Goats) tags. Victorian producers who wish to use these tags on a voluntary basis can purchase them by visiting the Victorian DPI’s website (www.dpi.vic.gov.au) and following the links ‘National Livestock Identification System’ and ‘NLIS Sheep & Goats’ to ‘Order tags online’. The electronic tags cost $1.35 each. The Victorian DPI is also providing grants of up to $2500 to Victorian producers to assist with the purchase of readers, software and associated equipment. More information: www.sheepcrc.org.au ú
Dec 08 - Jan 09
Aug - Sep 08