The role of data in sheep flock management

Quality: Dion Woolford of Karawatha Park has been able to improve his flock with BreedELITE. Image: Supplied.
Quality: Dion Woolford of Karawatha Park has been able to improve his flock with BreedELITE. Image: Supplied.

Much has changed since the arrival of sheep flocks in South Australia in the early 19th century. From blade shears to machine shears and the development of artificial insemination, new tools for sheep farmers has increased efficiency.

Organising sheep flocks is another matter. As a fourth generation farmer at Karawatha Park, near Kimba in South Australia, Dion Woolford has seen the development of sheep identification technology first hand.

"The first system that we were using was a heap of tiny stock agent notebooks. That was semi functional but really limited in what you could record and there was no individual animal data, it was basically just numbers of each different mob of ewes."

Seeing the potential for improved identification as a way to increase yield on the farm with over 2,000 ewes, Karawatha Park invested in an early software system that could electronically manage identification data.

"We did a bit of research and decided on what we thought the best was at the time," said Woolford. "We were able to integrate some of the data recording but it wasn't able to spit it out as we needed it - we needed to constantly switch between two programs."

When Woolford was introduced to South Australian designed and built flock management technology BreedELITE, he could see the potential to go much further.

"When we came across BreedELITE, that was an instant lightbulb moment. This is what we needed. BreedELITE offered us a complete package."

Woolford began with the data the farm had from the existing software. This was imported into the BreedELITE software and then updated over time.

Smart thinking: BreedELITE helps the team at Karawatha Park select the best of the flock. Image: Supplied.

Smart thinking: BreedELITE helps the team at Karawatha Park select the best of the flock. Image: Supplied.

After a number of years and with a large percentage of the flock tracked through the system with electronic identification tags, Karawatha Park decided to bring BreedELITE's Smart Drafter into its operations.

The Smart Drafter can automatically upload data on individual sheep and segregate sheep based on traits stored in the software.

"It's turned days into hours," said Woolford.

While satisfying the investment through drafting and weighing alone, the system is now being used by Karawatha Park to sort ewes prior to mating, lambing and on sale day, recording data all throughout.

"It assists us in deciding what animals we let go and it also provides that important layer of information that we need to select our best animals to breed rams for our clients. So it works at the top and the bottom end of the flock."

All in all, said Woolford, "BreedELITE is an enabler, it's allowed us to grow comfortably with confidence".

For more information visit breedelite.com

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