Looking Over The Neighbours Fence
In the last blog, we spoke about buying decisions and not buying machines. In this blog, we’ll list some of the different decisions that our clients are making, with the hope that this will inspire a great idea for you to want to make these same decisions too.
Decisions like these are available to both stud and commercial breeders alike so you don’t need to be a top 10% stud or a tech guru to make great profit-driving, data-backed decisions.
The BreedELITE Sheep System is the link between the data collection and the decision making. Good data that is presented well enhances farmers intuition to enable it to work at a higher level.
The thing with these decisions, is that you can make as many or as little as you like, but every single one of them is available to you, if you’re willing to commit to the actions necessary to drive them. If you are unsure of what actions are required, then that is why we are here to help breeders just like you to understand the process, both from a high level and from a step by step basis when having your trainings job-by-job with us.
Whilst the list below is pretty large, this is definitely not everything. You are only limited by your creativity in ways to use the system to drive decisions. We recommend starting with a few decisions that really excite you, master them and let your natural desire to be better move you toward more decisions.
- Search the database for ewes that are above or below certain ASBV criteria to inform ram purchases for corrective or opportunistic matings
- When doing visual assessment and soundness checking of ewes, have the software display all data right in front of you to get the full visual and data picture of ewes before allocating a potential join sire individually.
- Condition score all ewes and immediately see what animals need an increase in nutrition. Draft them up at the same time and move to a paddock with higher nutritional availability. Monitor this mob for any losing or gaining weight to ensure condition is on a rising plane heading into joining.
- Estimate ewe lamb readiness to mate by drafting on current weight and/or projected weight at joining date and/or birth date and/or birth type
- can use last years data to identify what the lowest weight ewes were at before scanning percentage dropped and draft using this threshold
- Identify the ewes that have scanned 0 the last two pregnancies and mark them as cull ready for drafting at joining
- Search the database for recorded data such as one or a combination of classing grade, frame type, wool data, weight data, birth type, birth year, previous pregnancy history, age stage related data (eg. birth weight or post weaning weight), condition scores etc to estimate your joining groups and ram needs before even going to the yards.
- Draft these groups off with ease and then do visual selection on top to confirm the mating
- When comparing individual sire or sire line/group performance, draft by birth group or sire to compare the animals in the mob to ensure they are moving you toward the type of sheep you want and if they expressed with your ewes how you were hoping.
- Take it one step further and compare averages of these groups for wool, carcass or asbv traits for those sires in 3 clicks!
- Go a step further with progeny performance and identify ewes that produce top grade rams/ewes from certain sire bloodlines or individual sires vs others. Mate the ewes to the genetics they work best with or consider embryo transfer
- Split ewes based on birth type to preferentially breed from twin-born ewes if numbers are high
- Split sheep based on joining allocations/predicted joinings and culls previously identified
- Draft by weight simply for ewe lambs to confirm they are at joining weight
- Draft based on matesel allocations instead of manually looking through sheets
- Look at rampower rankings and draft based on different figures or index values to meet different joining outcomes
- If mating commercial ewes and matching numbers to paddocks, put the correct number of rams in the pen then simply run ewes through until they hit a certain number on the screen and stop the drafter. Let them out into the paddock
- Box sheep back together post-scanning with no worries about it even if you single sire joined or want to lamb in twins and singles
- Segregation on pregnancy status poor performers
- you can immediately draft double dries if you want (sheep that have been dry twice)
- Weighing at scanning easily by running them through the drafter to start to identify ideal joining weights for your ewe genetics
- When foetal ageing, be able to split ewes a few months later by estimated lambing date to have your earlies and lates lambing together.
- Segregation into lambing groups/estimated birth date/last preg scan result/sire groups or any combination of these to ensure future data is collected properly
- Associate an alternate tag to the ewes for easy searching when mothering up (eg. neck collars or spray painted numbers)
- Box ewes together after preg scanning and then split just before lambing into multiples and singles to be able to track birth types when creating lamb records without needing to mother up
- If feed is good, you don’t have to split into twins and singles, use the stocking rate to get better pasture utilisation. You can even consider carrying dries for an extra time to turn them off later
- Mothering up/capturing lamb pedigree to see what ewes are not only getting pregnant but producing you the best lambs
- Lamb birth weights to ensure that they are not rising too much if you are pushing early growth. This also gives you an understanding of what ewes need to be mated to lower birth weight rambs
- Track maternal abilities to ensure that the ewes are staying close to the lambs during interruption. Draft ewes post-weaning that didn’t score well for mothering ability.
- Birth group assignment so when it comes time to class or submit to sheep genetics you are comparing apples with apples.
- Tracking birthing ease to ensure you aren’t keeping mothers that can’t lamb, or if there are many issues, you can track it back to a certain sire or sire line.
- When mothering, as history builds you are able to select and rank ewes based on the live lamb reproduction index, which is the average number of live lambs produced per joining event
- you can decide to cull poor mothers as soon as they are ready to leave the farm
- Marking visual scoring with stick reader straight to the software
- quickly know what sires are producing more or less desirable animals for certain traits (eg. breech wrinkle scores and mulesed yes/no for moving toward mules-free status)
- See that the sires you are purchasing to take you toward that goal are actually living up to their name
- Immediately know your lamb numbers, sex breakdown, and any other traits you are recording to make purchasing and planning decisions around lamb sales and management
- Take a DNA sample to get parentage and/or genomic results to enable early-life selection on impossible to measure traits like eating quality and intra-muscular fat
- Get a weight to know what lambs/paddocks/ewes/sire groups are producing healthier, heavier lambs. This also prepares you for weight gains at the next weighing
- Management group allocation (based on mob size, tier in mob, weights etc)
- This leads to better weaner management for current food on offer matched to the lambs
- At weaning time split ewes from lambs and have the lambs split into ewes and wethers/rams all in one draft.
- This teaches the lambs about the drafter and also gives you the ability to decide the best way to manage the weaners as you would have a weight too
- Weaning wet/dry of ewes to make sure they are actually taking lambs through to survival. This ensures you don’t have free-loaders on farm that are getting pregnant but resorbing foetuses or leaving lambs behind after birth
- Take a weight to understand weight gains from weaning time. Start early in identifying good and poor performers if early growth is a target of yours
- for the animals that are growing faster go the extra step and identify the later born twins that are the superstars in the group so you don’t suffer from ‘big sheep syndrome’ of selecting early born singles as your top sheep
- After post weaning weights, muscle, fat scoring and/or fleeceweighing, split the progeny into sire groups to compare both the visual and the measured data in your own mini sire evaluation. With 3 clicks have the averages for the traits of your choice split into the sires, and then see the progeny differences right in front of your eyes. You can then start to decide what sires are really performing in your environment.
- Taking worm egg counts lets you identify naturally resistant animals early on in their life
- Record cull data on animals that are pulled out for undesirable traits. This is invaluable information to track if there are any commonalities with the faults (eg. parentage, management, feed etc)
- When classing ewes, you can see on one screen the grade/mob that her progeny have ended up in, helping you decide not only that she is producing you lambs, but producing you good lambs (some ewes are consistently good mothers to bad sheep)
- Identify the ewes that have scanned 0 the last two pregnancies and cull, split the maidens out to let them go again, and split ewes into last preg scan results as 1 or 2 to ensure you aren’t being overly harsh on animals that are giving you twins (they may be slightly lower in condition and you don’t want to think they are not good doers)
- Get a combination of birth type, micron, carcass data, fleece weight and sire to get an index ranking for within flock breeding values. This can then be used as a ‘permission to play’ figure that you can draft out on
- When needing to select ewes to leave the property, instead of just culling the oldest age group, split off by birth year in the drafter and go through your oldest two age groups and select by soundness and/or performance. Some of your older ewes are your most productive!!
- When classing sheep especially in hogget age or lower, draft into birth type and/or birthdate to remove suffering from ‘big sheep syndrome’ and selecting bigger sheep even though they just got a leg up in life
- Before joining ewe lambs, make sure they are above the proper weight as well as having a positive weight gain to ensure they are on rising condition at the point of joining
- When comparing individual sire or sire line/group performance, draft by birth group or sire name to compare the animals in their birth years to ensure they are moving you toward the type of sheep you want and if they expressed with your ewes how you were hoping. Take it one step further and compare averages of these groups for wool, carcass or asbv traits for those sires in 3 clicks!
- Use your breeding objective to create cutoffs for certain traits. Use these cutoffs to find the animals in the database in a short amount of time, change them to cull and the next time you draft your sheep simply have the culls go to one side and you’ll already know how many there are.
- then when in the yards you are looking at the rest of the animals for visual fit but already know they stack up from a data perspective
- If classing ewes every year, you can draft or search on not just the last recorded grade but could split animals specifically based on hogget grade for example to compare animals at similar ages
- Even if only visual recording and have no interest in using objective measurement or ASBVs, you can still score every animal based on the traits you assess visually to identify trends in bloodlines or paddocks or individual animals that are producing faults or undesirable traits, or those that are producing your best animals.
- Take a midside sample and send it off pre-shearing with the goal of splitting animals into micron lines before they go into the sheds
- Record hogget traits for visual type, class, wool scoring and structure scoring to identify animals that are meeting or failing to move you toward your objectives. When these sheep are older and you want to start culling heavier on, let’s say, wool character for example, you can already know how many animals didn’t score as desirably at the hogget age stage and make an educated decision around where to draw the line.
- Split animals into micron lines before bringing them into the shed if you are playing at the premium micron end of the market instead of getting paid for the average
- Draft off any animals with very low tensile strength and bring them together such that they don’t get spread through your bales in case the classer doesn’t pick it up.
- When fleece weighing be able to have the micron and other wool test data displayed at the point of weighing to inform the Classer.
- You can also decide then and there if the animal should be culled and enter the classing grade or visual scores (eg. fleece rot) with two clicks for drafting later
- Split animals into weight categories and then drench to the weights just for each bracket instead of drenching to the heaviest in the mob
- Go as fine as you want to with your weight increments. You could do three 12kg splits or even run each direction around again and split into 4kg splits based on last weight. This is very very quick to do and saves a lot, especially with drench prices!
- Draft sale rams into lot number ranges on the day of the sale so you don’t have to scan rams with the stick reader or search through sheets for hours
- then display lot numbers on the stick reader when penning up to speed the process
- Be more professional when a client comes to look at rams, they can give you their criteria on the spot (eg. any ram above 80kg that has a PWT ASBV of >6 and a micron of less than 18.5 and PP genomic horn). You can put those criteria into the drafter software in a couple mins and the rams that match the criteria will draft out to one side.
- You can then use the stick reader to bring up their full file including pedigree, birth type, all recorded data, and sibling/cousin performance from the same Dam and sire. If the client wants to change their criteria, it is only a 2min job to change and run the sheep back through again.
Paddock Feeding Over Summer:
- Box different age groups, classing grades, types, breeds, mobs, etc together over summer for larger feeding mobs and paddock relaxation. Turn 50 mobs into 5 and spend more time with the family
- Get an understanding of feed trials for different rations/fodder mixes in either a paddock or feedlot situation to see if the input is actually producing a better output. This is done by weighing the sheep on a monthly basis and seeing the average weights rise or fall for the mobs
- No longer needing small paddocks! All the data is in the software so box mobs together freely.
- If sheep decide to box themselves together, it is no longer a painful event, it’s just another opportunity to run them through the draft again (no more post preg-scan issues)
- Box all sheep together for mustering for shearing. Once shorn, run through the drafter to split them back into their groups and take them out to the paddocks.
- At the same time, draft any culls you identified during fleece weighing.
- If bringing the ewes back in to take the rams out after joining, simply have the drafter split on sex so you don’t have to wrestle rams in the pens!
Weighing / Feedlotting / Containment Lots:
- Drafting by weight gain. one step further, drafting by projected weights as not all sheep gain weight at the same rate but will be at the same weight by the same date
- Get an understanding of feed trials for different rations/fodder mixes in either a paddock or feedlot situation to see if the input is actually producing a better output
- After a weighing job, you know exactly how many sheep you have at every weight bracket. For example you may know you have 79 animals over 52kg, but you also have 33 animals between 50-52. This lets you plan for those extra sheep coming through to sale weight. Take it one step further and set the drafter up to draft that middle weight group on projected weight to see how many animals will be at kill weight be the time the truck will be here
- In feedlot or containment feeding situations, draft animals regularly by weight gain to ensure they are putting weight on. Shy feeders and sick animals kill your profits, identify these as early as possible
- Compare different suppliers against each other in terms of lamb average weight gain. Not all genetics are equal, one client found that one supplier of lambs was 30% more profitable than the average!
- With the ability to now draft off all sheep, you don’t need the stock agent to 1) be available and 2) draft your sheep. Simply weigh and draft your sheep yourself, send the weights through to the stockie, and have them split up for when they come to look at them. Once this is in place, negotiate a lower % of commission because they now have to work less (some clients are getting >50% reduction, some are removing stock agents altogether).
- Be able to run multiple breeds together easily and split up whenever you need to do any work with them. Simply draft on breed
- Flag animals in the software that you are curious to have a look at. When you are in the yards, have the alert logic set for if the animal is flagged. It will pause the drafter and you can have a look at the animal. This could be one that was recovering from sickness and you want to asses their recovery or certain animals born to an AI sire for example
- Before finalising a decision based on data, split the animals into the criteria you identified and consider them visually as well. Alter logic until you are happy with the results then implement the decision confidently
If you are in a position where you would like to make some or most of the decisions in the list above, then the BreedELITE Sheep System is the right fit for you. To get an understanding of your operation and how these decisions can come to life, please book a call here and speak with one of our sheep tech and data experts.