Data detail in Gallagher WEID gear aids management in marginal country
Feeding livestock that aren’t producing doesn’t make sense at the best of times, but it’s even more critical in marginal country.
Damien Meppem is the livestock overseer on “Tyrone”, owned by the Carrigan family at Gurley, 30 kilometres south-west of Moree in Northern New South Wales.
“We’re in an area where it’s probably becoming a bit more marginal than it used to be with our rainfall pattern. Once you start supplementary feeding, you don’t want to be feeding animals that aren’t producing for you.”
“Tyrone” operates beef, sheep and sheep-feedlot enterprises.
“We run around 130 Hereford cows, targeting the weaner market. We also run 5,000 breeding ewes in a self-replacing Merino flock, breeding our own flock rams. We target the wool-grower wether market and we’ve got a small on-farm feedlot where we feed about half of our wether lambs, just to target the domestic and export markets. A stud nucleus on farm let’s us breed our own rams and we’ve just delved into a bit of AI, so we’re weighing and condition scoring as well as fleece weighing.”
Greater accuracy needed
To weigh, Damien was using an old set of scales and manually reading tag numbers in the yards.
“With the lamb breeding to start with, I thought we needed to collate more data to make sure we’re heading in the right direction. Now our whole cattle operation is recorded on there too.”
“In the sheep, we’ve built on the initial records, with fleece weighing and doing micron testing. Eventually, we’ll probably have most of our ewes with electronic tags, and aim to get as much data as we can to improve productivity and increase our bottom line.”
“It’s the same thing every farmer wants to do: be profitable.”
But weighing and manually reading numbered tags “got a bit messy”.
“You need someone on the pen, writing, and someone reading tags. I thought we could do it a better way, so I started looking around. We looked at a bit of different gear, then spoke to some people that had a Gallagher TSi.
“Essentially, we wanted to get something that was just weighing and recording data, but there’s no limit to what you can do with this TSi really.
“We didn’t want to buy something for weighing and then say ‘gee, wish we could do this or wish we could do that’. With this TSi, we can just do what we think we need to; we don't have to buy any more equipment.”
The top-of-the-line in weigh scales, the Gallagher Livestock Manager TSi 2, lets the operator quickly decide in the yards, paddock or office, with immediate access to all records, making it highly efficient.
“We can see who’s producing what, who’s not producing, and can cull them out, so we’re not feeding non-performers and can focus on the high performers. We’re trying to improve our productivity so that we’re not just wasting feed resources and this lets us do that.”
“Visually assessing animals is one thing; you can pick the best one in the pen, but it’s not going to necessarily be your best performer nine times out of 10 as far as objective measurement goes. The TSi has helped us to know individual performance exactly and not just go on the average, where you can have some animals – that you can’t identify – be letting the rest of the team down.”
Damien says they’ve also found the TSi useful with sheep pedigree data.
“Even just the sire reference and some progeny data, that has helped a lot.”
“We use it on the cattle too, so we weigh all our weaners, and pretty much our whole cattle operation as far as recordkeeping, is on that machine.”
Damien says with the success of the TSi, they’re planning to invest in a Gallagher SmartReader BR Panel Reader.
“Our idea here is for efficiency of weighing and processing the male weaners and the ewes, using just the wand outside. Every sheep that comes in you’ve got to try and scan it. It’s fine if you’re doing a hundred but when you start doing a couple of thousand it becomes a bit of a chore. So added to the TSi, that will eliminate a bit more labour too.”
Info at fingertips
Damien says with electronic tags allowing farmers to collect in-depth data, having the TSi means you can use the information.
“With the EID, you can see exactly what treatments, medications or processes individual animals have had over the years you’ve been recording. All that information is right there, and that helps with our sale of weaners and preg-tested cows.
“If you want to know something, it’s pretty much on the screen.”
“And aside from giving us more data, and more accurate data, to work with, we don’t need two or three people in the yard.”