IMAGINE being able to spin a magic wheel to select the right move at the right time to boost lambing rates or produce better weaners.
The idea is not so far-fetched with Esperance region sheep producers' group Association of Sheep Husbandry Evaluation and Excellence Program (ASHEEP) developing the Virtual Shepherd series of plotting tools.
The Meat and Livestock Association (MLA) already distributed 12,000 copies Australia-wide of the first tool, a Lambing Planner.
Presented in the form of a wheel, the Lambing Planner is a plotting and prompting tool that helps plan pre- and post-lambing operations, ram and ewe feed demand, pregnancy testing, treatments and vaccinations as well as lamb weaning and marking.
In essence, it captures the secret to high production - sequencing of best practice events - and maps it out for producers.
ASHEEP has attracted MLA funding to help develop its second tool, a weaner planner.
ASHEEP immediate past chairman Bob Reed said that was the first little foray into developing best practice tools.
"Now we have got to deliver a report on the conceptual potential of the weaner planner as a tool probably in September this year to the MLA," he said.
Mr Reed said the Lambing Planner was completed in 2003 after ASHEEP identified a need to boost lambing rates in the region.
"The concept and initial planning work was done in Esperance via workshopping ideas at a committee level, with inaugural member Greg Bannon contributing a lot to the initial conceptual model," he said.
Agriculture Department staff Peter Robson and Mandy Curnow helped design the finished product, with senior industry professionals vetting the technical information.
Mr Reed said ASHEEP was proud that a product developed for south coast farmers had been adopted Australia-wide through the MLA.
"Since then we have been working on a sequel which we call the Weaner Planner," Mr Reed said.
"The planning tool is still in its conceptual stages, but if we can demonstrate potential then it will be further developed in conjunction with the Agriculture Department of WA, the MLA and Australian Wool Innovation.
"Part of the concept will be to plot the bodyweight progression of a weaner towards target weights at target dates."
This would involve levels of nutrition required and the information and prompts needed to keep a weaner progressive and avoid any unnecessary stalling or regressing in bodyweight gain.
Mr Reed said it was likely to be harder to develop a simple tool for weaner planning due to the range of feeding regimes and different target markets and dates.
"We are a not-for-profit organisation but we think it is important for producer groups to engage in the definition of best practice," Mr Reed said.
"Comprehensive but user-friendly tools are a very good way to go and we have had very good feedback from farmers planning a system, farm staff and educationalists."
For more information on the Lambing Planner or Weaner Planner, contact Sandra Brown on 9083 1135 or write to ASHEEP, PO Box 2445, Esperance WA 6450.