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PDS: Using eID to improve ewe performance

Project start date: 06 September 2018
Project end date: 29 January 2021
Publication date: 20 May 2021
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Sheep
Relevant regions: NSW, Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania
Download Report (2.6 MB)

Summary

Monitoring ewes’ bodyweight and condition score gives producers the opportunity to improve production and welfare outcomes on an individual animal, flock and industry basis. Currently, manual condition scoring of a portion of ewes in the flock is still critical to manage ewes.

Electronic Identification and its associated technologies are now readily available to producers, but many are unsure of how it can be best used in their commercial sheep enterprises. In this project, ewes were monitored through regular weighing (and condition scoring), and ewes in low body condition score during the summer were preferentially fed before joining. Individual scanning results of ewes, and mob marking and weaning percentages were recorded as appropriate on each farm.

Using the approaches developed for the producer demonstration site (PDS) resulted in some production increases on some occasions, showing that these practices can be implemented on farms and provide benefits. Producers also benefited from practicing utilising eID on their farms, not least by using it to test the effect of their management strategies, increasing their confidence in making changes on a larger scale. 

Objectives

The aim of this project was for producers to become confident in the use of technology associated with electronic identification (eID) and use the data generated by eID to improve the productivity of their ewes and therefore profitability of their sheep enterprise.

This project also investigated the barriers to effective adoption and use of eID technology to change ewe management in commercial sheep enterprises.

Key findings

  • Weight differences between control and monitor ewes were recorded and differences in scanning and marking results were recorded during the project, showing that the utilising eID and associated data can give benefits for ewe management. This suggests that regular monitoring does improve management of ewes, through increased awareness of ewe bodyweight or condition.
  • There were less differences between the control and monitor ewes at the end of the project than during it, when the ewes were under more nutritional pressure, during late pregnancy or lactation.
  • If monitoring is continued even during favourable seasons, producers can have more confidence around opportunistic decisions about the use of surplus feed.
  • The use of eID can benefit not just one enterprise, but the whole farm system, for example pasture utilisation.

Benefits to industry

Producers gained skills and knowledge in using eID-related equipment and what needs to be done in practical terms, in order for it to be implemented on farm.

Monitoring ewes returned a positive return on investment (2.5-5 times ROI) in 3 of 6 occasions; of the other 3 occasions, external factors (excellent season and loss of unexpected number of lambs in one mob) may have affected the results.

Related resources

More information

Contact email: reports@mla.com.au
Primary researcher: Mackinnon Project, University of Melbourne