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Strong turnout to Elmore EID seminar

A desire to learn how to gain on-farm productivity benefits from the new compulsory electronic tagging regulations saw a strong turnout in Elmore in early February.

The field day, held at the Elmore Events Centre in Burnewang, featured a panel of sheep-industry experts who covered a range of topics from choosing the right electronic tags for a mob, what electronic identification (EID) tools are needed to get started and how they work, EID software systems and data management, how to save time and boost profitability via productivity gains, and how farmers can access funding assistance to transition to compulsory EID.

Justin Brown, north central Victoria territory manager with Gallagher, who organised the event, said the 80-plus attendees gained a lot.

"Farmers know it's compulsory to put the tags in when they sell animals, but they may not know how they can actually benefit. So the idea was to explain and demonstrate how they can use EID to vastly improve their farm productivity, rather than just 'cop a cost' to comply with government traceability requirements."

Tony Brennan of "Maryvale" at Sedgwick has been using electronic tags in his 1,000, 15-16 micron finewool Merinos since 2015.

"I thought it was a very useful presentation with excellent speakers over a variety of relevant, linked subjects. I definitely got something out of it. Having decided three years ago I was going to move foreword, I now have enough information to actually start using it, rather than just for AgVic traceability."

Among the presenters, Erica Schelfhorst and Garry Armstrong from Agriculture Victoria addressed why mandatory EID had been brought in, and Anthony Shepherd, "sheep agronomist" and principal of Sheepmatters, took attendees through how using EID tags to collect data gave farmers an opportunity to increase farm productivity and profitability, and make better on-farm decisions in real time.

Mr Shepherd said, "It's about using the tools to capture commercial productivity traits on animals that will benefit your operation and using that to your best commercial advantage. For instance, you can identify unproductive animals with EID; culling them from the system then boosts the production average of your remaining animals by a mile.

"It's also essential to only capture data that is important; some of the growers thought they had to capture 'everything' with EID, but that just wastes your own time. I also showed them, step by step, how to then use the data in reports. Some farmers collect data, but don't do anything with it, so we also went through how important — and easy — it is to do that."

Along with Mr Brown, Gallagher's weighing and EID product manager Mike Hemsley put together the presentations and demonstration on the tools farmers can use to get the most out of electronic tags.

Mr Hemsley said, "One of the preconceptions is that EID is really expensive, but it just doesn't have to be. So we showed people a variety of tools — whether they want to put their toes in the water, get into it a bit more, or whether they want to get into it big time. Many found that breakdown really helpful for their own farm businesses.

"We also showed people how all these products work with each other. You could see the relief when they heard that when they want to get deeper into animal management that they don't have to throw products away and get a whole new set; they can just add to what they've already got."

Sheepmatters' Anthony Shepherd said, "There needs to be integrity around this and that will be the challenge for EID in Victoria: a lot of companies will come in and try to get a quick sale. Improving production happens over time, and that's what this seminar was all about: giving people information so they can make long-term, sensible decisions."

Gallagher's Justin Brown said, "I'd like to thank the Elmore Lions Club for putting on the barbecue dinner, as well as everyone who came. It was great to see so many farmers, as well as representatives from rural stores in the area — some people came a long way. It gave everyone involved in the sheep industry in central Victoria a really good understanding of the ins and outs of EID gear and data collection now that Victoria has compulsory EID."

Mr Brown said Gallagher will hold more field-day seminars over the next few weeks through central and western Victoria, each with a representative from AgVic and a tag company attending.