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EID at heart of strong and usable information from LambEx 2016

image1-for-news-General Purpose

One of the most noticeable points about LambEx 2016 for deputy chairman Anthony Shepherd, was that people are willing to make a strong effort to be exposed to good information.

Mr Shepherd, who is also principal of Sheepmatters, said, “We’re finding LambEx has gathered a name as a quality-information event for the industry. It’s become a centrepiece of representing this industry as very professional, not just a group of farmers who sell lambs.

“This year LambEx, which was in August in Albury [NSW] had nearly 1,100 people, with a large contingent from New Zealand, and quite a few from Europe, the USA and South Africa, and a few from Zimbabwe. LambEx is now on people’s radar, and the beautiful thing is we have
delegates who have come off-farm and are then exposed to people they would normally never meet in a million years, people who have formed a lot of professionalism around the sheep and lamb industry.”

Mr Shepherd said an excellent example was comparing the cropping industry 15 years ago.

“A lot of people have paid agronomists to advise on their cropping programs, and it’s only in the last five years they’re starting to identify and understand their sheep operation is a highly productive enterprise. So now, people are looking to get in a ‘sheep agronomist’ so to speak, to understand what makes their animals tick and how to get better productivity out of their enterprise.”

And part of that, he said, is electronic identification (EID).

“We use EID to capture information so we can understand which animals are producing and which aren’t, to make informed decisions on what we need to do or change, to get better use of our valuable time by only spending it on productive animals. That’s one of the take-home messages: use information such as this to be professional and be proud of the industry that you’re a part of.”

It was a message well heeded.

Mr Shepherd presented at the Gallagher Recovery Breakfast on the second day, with people asking questions during the presentation, and through the rest of the day “everywhere I went”.

“I got people to go and get their ear tags scanned at the Gallagher site to show them how easy EID is. Gallagher was flooded after it. So people were listening, and that was good.”

Mr Shepherd’s breakfast presentation went through basic points such as knowing the enterprise’s breeding objectives, and from there, understanding what traits to capture and how to do it.

“Farmers are time poor, so only collect data that has productive value — and use it! It’s about objective production data, not age.”

He talked through an example how one of his commercial clients had used EID tools to identify the highest wool producers.

“By identifying a difference of $35.46 a head from the top to the bottom in their classed maiden ewes, after three years they had an increased average fleece value of $14.92 over an average of 680 head; that’s a mob increase of $10,145.60 in three years.”

He also gave examples of using EID tools to capture fertility traits. Here, the difference in value from top to bottom ewes for total annual production was $70.81 for every ewe. In dollars-per-hectare terms, an extra 1,145 kilograms of twin ewes produced an extra 11,421kg of lamb. Mr Shepherd took the audience through how this client achieved an extra $30,151.44 due to increased lamb yields and dressed carcase weights.

“This is all possible in commercial lamb operations when farmers spend their valuable time on production, not freeloaders, and make smart decisions with tools like EID. Commercial operations are all about dollar-per-hectare returns, and you can do it if you want to with the right tools.”

Over on the Gallagher stand, territory manager for South-West NSW and the Riverina, Brendan Ryan, was demonstrating a range of EID tools, from entry-level to more advanced. “We had a lot of interest in the HR5 Hand Held EID Tag Reader & Data Collector. Many people are looking to start holding records, and the HR5 is a very good, very easy, way to get into that.”

Gallagher also launched the new Dashboard online software for its Animal Performance Software (APS), a comprehensive stock-analysis tool with powerful filtering and customised reporting capability to give farmers virtually any information needed on individual animals or custom groups.

“Every model of Gallagher’s weighing and data-collection equipment comes standard with APS already loaded, so you don’t need to go out and buy another bit of software, and there are no third party systems, and you don’t need to set up a spread sheet or create a new database; everything is already set to go.”

Mr Ryan said Gallagher also demonstrated its Sheep Handlers, Sheep Auto Drafter and the Westonfence system.

“The quality of the Sheep Handlers’ and Sheep Auto Drafters’ build is the most common thing people say; they’re very robust and quiet. It was pretty good to hear people say our backup service is impressive — like how easy it is to get someone to answer a phone at Gallagher and talk to you. It was great to be able to show people how to use the Westonfence system; it has such wide uses.”

Mr Ryan said one of the interesting things about LambEx 2016 was the number of young people.

“It was great to see that younger generation of farmers coming through and there to learn.”

Stephanie Larkin marketing manager for Gallagher, which has participated in the last three LambExes as a sponsor, said the event was all about learning.

“Gallagher recognises LambEx one of the premier events on the calendar. It’s a gathering of some of the country’s best sheep producers who are there to learn, develop and research the industry’s latest thinkings. And we are too.

“For me, a highlight was the calibre of conversations. People are there to learn, they want to see how can they improve their operations, what’s new, what can they do differently. It’s a look into the future: where is the industry going? We’re going through a very positive period for sheep producers, and the future continues to look bright. “There’s also the motivation to continue investing in genetics, hardware and education. LambEx is really a chance for producers to stop and think about what they are doing on their property and how they can make a difference in the future.”