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Maximising the value of eID technology for sheep producers

Did you know that electronic identification tags can provide a 35% return on investment?

Project start date: 30 October 2017
Project end date: 15 May 2019
Publication date: 24 May 2019
Livestock species: Sheep
Relevant regions: National
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Summary

Electronic identification of sheep can improve the efficiency of flock management by making individual animal data collection and tracking easier and more accurate.

This project consisted of a desktop study to model a range of common breeding management systems used by commercial sheepmeat enterprises to highlight the long-term cost benefits of adopting electronic tags (eID).

The average cost benefit was a $4.12 return for every dollar invested by using eID to improve breeding and selection decisions across Merino and crossbred/composite type enterprises.

Objectives

This project modelled the long-term gain, as measured over five years, that can be achieved through changing management decisions based on the data generated using eID and associated technologies (e.g. pregnancy scanning, fleece weighing).

Key findings

  • Pregnancy scanning ewes and culling twice dry animals delivered the highest cost/benefit, returning $5.81 for every dollar invested.
  • Improving the ability of producers to identify and remove poor performing animals within the flock can improve producer and financial resilience to difficult seasons and market conditions, as costly non-productive animals are removed from the flock.
  • Selection of more productive animals will lead to reduced mortality and reproductive wastage (foetal loss) in sheep.
  • Increasing the level of production monitoring and animal selection can lead to improved productivity, market advantages through better meeting target market requirements, reduced ewe and lamb mortality rates and reduced reproductive wastage.

Benefits to industry

Within a Merino enterprise, a greater return can be generated through increasing reproductive rates compared to fleece value over a five year period.

Within a crossbred enterprise, the greatest gain can be achieved from removing dry animals from the flock whilst also preferentially selecting replacements from twin born animals.

MLA action

MLA is continuing to invest in eID to improve the productivity and profitability of Australia's red meat industry. Adoption activities are also being run under MLA's Producer Demonstration Sites (PDS) program.

Current active projects include:

  • PDS: Greater weaning using eID and ASBV (ongoing until 2029)
  • PDS: Realising benefits from sheep eIDs (ongoing until 2025)
  • PDS: Using eID to improve ewe performance (due for completion in 2021)
  • EID enabled – stimulating the information supply chain (due for completion in 2021)
  • Integrating dual purpose crops and eID into mixed farming systems (due for completion in 2020).

Email getinvolved@mla.com.au for further information on these projects.

Future research

To ensure that these results are adopted as widely as possible by the industry, future R&D in this area should consider expanding the range of flock types analysed in this project. In addition, long-term, individual animal data relating to reproductive performance of ewes over their lifetime is required to more accurately model the effects of such strategies as selecting replacements based on kilograms of lamb weaned per ewe.

More information

Contact email: reports@mla.com.au
Primary researcher: AgriPartner Consulting