IT is becoming easier to collect pedigree data for breeders, thanks to new innovative research into on-farm Bluetooth technology.
But it is only just the beginning of what will be able to be monitored and analysed with the new Actigraphic movement sensors, according to Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development (DPIRD) livestock research officer Beth Paganoni.
Ms Paganoni said the Bluetooth technology was 99 per cent accurate, easier to use and less time consuming than other types of data collecting systems, such as taking blood samples or physically watching the sheep to match up ewes and lambs.
“And is not so hard on the mob,” she said.
“The system works just like Bluetooth technology in phones and the results are immediately applicable, which gives growers confidence in the more accurate information.”
The technology is being trialled by Gnowerangerup stud breeders Collyn and Tanya Garnett on 500 ewes and they are eagerly awaiting the results.
They run Willemenup Poll Merino Stud, Curlew Creek Poll Dorset Stud and Yonga Downs White Suffolk Stud on their 2500 hectare property.
The system works through devices attached to collars around the ewes and lambs, which communicate with each other and collect information on their movements, revealing which lamb belongs to which ewe with more accuracy and efficiency.
DPIRD funded the trial in collaboration with Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and Murdoch University.
The local trial data will be combined with interstate data as part of a national project.
Mr Garnett said he was approached by AWI researcher Dr Mark Ferguson about six months ago to trial the device and he was “honoured to be chosen”.
“Ät the moment we are focusing on recording movement on when a lamb feeds but in the future other things will be added on,” he said.
The Garnetts hope that the research gathered from the trial will help in building on their limited pedigree information of their flock, which was mainly from local stock but had “a little bit of South Australian influence two or three generations back”.
To date the Willemenup property had been using the Pedigree Matchmaker gate system which records information from electronic ear tags as the ewes pass through the gate to feed or drink, but he has found it too rough on the animals.
“A benefit of the new system would be that we don’t have to put our best ewes through the gate system so it doesn’t take its toll on them, because they can get a bit beat up,” he said.
While all devices used in the trial were provided through DPIRD, funding to purchase from suppliers could get pricey.
“It’s fairly expensive at the moment but it’ll get cheaper and cheaper the more people use it,” Mr Garnett said.
“What we are doing with the technology is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s really endless possibilities to the things we can measure.
“It will be interesting to see where it goes.”
Ms Paganoni expects these types of technology systems to be available to growers in the near future.
On their website the Garnetts are clear that they are not afraid of technology.
They describe how they know about what each animal is doing and how they are tracking each ram, ewe and lamb by electronic ear tag with all treatments, measurements, births and management activities being recorded.
Willemenup stud uses Sapien Technology to manage and use this data in its everyday operations.
Mr Garnett said as a stud breeder he was trying to source the best genetics for the future and build up its existing strengths.
While they were never quite sure how the seasons were going to turn out, lambing this year started off “beautifully”, but due to the weather they had to wean early so the ewes could recoup.
“We had just finished putting up the fences from last year’s flood damage,” he said.
“But the flood in February was much bigger.
“We are just lucky we had a lot of subsoil moisture in the ground, which was a good reserve, so the ewes were in a good condition going into lambing.”
The Garnetts also have a 120 head feedlot of cows.
Mr Garnett said they were a bit under the usual amount of cattle, but were halfway through re-stocking.
“Red meat is at a premium at the moment so we are re-stocking and hope to have more in the future,” he said.
“It is really just value-adding to the grain, and a good opportunity to put weight on cattle and sheep.”
On the farm they run mainly sheep with three studs comprising of 1500 Merino ewes, 550 Poll Dorset ewes, and a joint venture with their stud master of 350 White Suffolk ewes.
“Last year we had 38 per cent in crop, but this year we had 45pc to 50pc of the property in crop, mainly wheat, but also oaten hay and barley for feed grain,” Mr Garnett said.
“But the bulk of the crop was about 80pc wheat”.