Case study of the month: South’s EID investment drives productivity north
The use of electronic identification (EID) is making commercial sheep producer Clayton South’s life a lot easier when it comes to managing his 6500-strong Dohne ewe flock.
Owner: Clayton South
Property location: 30 kilometres east of Wagin
Property size: 4000 hectares
Stock: 5000 dohne ewes mated to dohne rams and 1500 dohne ewes mated to terminal rams
Technology: Electronic identification
The Wagin farmer first invested in the technology in 2014, in the hope of gaining efficiencies and making more money from his sheep enterprise.
Today Clayton is certainly glad he did, because the equipment – making the task of collecting data more accurate, easier and faster – has allowed him to improve the productivity and profitability of his business.
He likens it to yield mapping within the cropping side of his farm business, which indicates the production from particular areas of land. “We want to see what each individual animal is producing.”
“We’ve recently trialled proximity sensors on a group of our maiden twin ewes and ewe lambs that have raised lambs,” Clayton said.
“The sensors match the lambs up with the ewes and we have recorded weaning weights for all the lambs.
“Since then the ewes have been fleece weighed and once we've got all the data together we will have calculated a gross income produced per ewe that includes the weight of lamb weaned and kilograms of wool grown.
“We’ll also compare this to their joining weight to see how efficient they are.”
Thanks to a fully automated sheep handler with automatic weighing, three-way drafting and EID reading capabilities, together with a stick reader, the main Dohne flock is managed with a strong focus on high fertility and a premium is put on twinning ewes. Ewes not suited to the central flock are drafted out and joined with White Suffolk rams for prime lamb production.
The main aim is to ultimately produce a ewe that can wean her own bodyweight in lambs by 15 weeks as well as cut a five kilogram fleece come shearing time.
Clayton is also using the EID system to improve the reproductive performance of his flock, improve lamb weight management and allow for opportunistic ewe lamb breeding.
At pregnancy scanning he uses his stick reader and an ‘autorecord’ board to compile a list of dry, early single, late single, early twinning and late twinning ewes.
The electronically collated data is used to manage his flock – feeding extra to twin bearing ewes and retaining the early twin ewes as the core breeding flock while making a season-by-season decision about the fate of the rest.
At lamb marking a panel reader on the side of a Lambox electronic lamb weigh system calculates individual lamb weights as they drop from the cradle as well as at weaning time.
Using this information Clayton calculates the growth rate of all of his ewe lambs, retaining the faster growing lambs to use in his breeding program and giving himself the option to draft-off the quicker growing and heavier ones to mate as ewe lambs and profit from extra lambs that year.
“If a season gets tough we can instantly work out which animals are off the farm first,” he said.
“If we are constantly breeding replacements from our better performing animals I have confidence we are improving production.”
Agricultural economist Peter Rowe said his recent case study on the implementation of the technology by Clayton shows that over 10 years the financial return from investing in EID technology will yield $6.60 for each dollar spent.
If the full cost of the handler is included then net present value drops to $3.50 for each dollar invested over six years.
He also said that in poor seasons the benefits become even more significant because Clayton can sell sheep on the basis of quantitative measures rather than age or visual assessment – some of the best genetics and performance attributes may still reside in his older sheep.
“EID is helping Mr South to get to the point where he knows the economic value of each ewe and following from that which are the most (and least) profitable,” Peter said.
“The biggest economic challenge for commercial producers considering investing in the technology would be the size of their operation – smaller operators have to spread the cost over less ewes.”
For more information on this case study, please contact Development Officer John Paul Collins, firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Mention of product names should not be taken as endorsement or recommendation.