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Knowledge is power

New technology has allowed Tim Westblade, Pastora Merino stud, Lockhart, to set a benchmark for his stud ewes and pinpoint trends across his 4000-strong stud ewe flock.

SIMONE NORRIE | 13 Feb, 2014

THE relationship between body condition score and conception rates of 1200 maiden ewes was in focus at Pastora Poll Merino stud, Lockhart, in late January – data that is now at the fingertips of owner Tim Westblade for the lifetime of each sheep.

New technology on the market has allowed Mr Westblade to set a benchmark for his stud ewes and pinpoint trends across his 4000-strong stud ewe flock.

Records collected using a Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter and a hand-held Gallagher HR4 electronic identification (EID) tag reader are priceless when it comes to minimising human error, he said.

“If you account for each person only making five per cent of errors that adds up to a large number and it’s not accurate enough,” he said.

“I keep this data for as long as I have that sheep and I’m now able to see trends in each particular one.”

Being one of the largest suppliers of Poll Merino rams in the State, the Westblades grasp every opportunity to optimise their potential.

Mr Westblade is working with Sheep Matters website proprietor, Anthony Shepherd, to learn how the technology can best benefit his operation.

“Today, we were looking at body condition score and body weight and how it relates to conception rates,” Mr Shepherd said.

“Is there a relationship between the two in maiden Merino ewes?”

“The better she is in condition score the better her energy reserves, so the less likely she will be to have lambing issues, will be able to produce good milk while maintaining her own system, and so forth – but we don’t want her to be over fat.”

Mr Shepherd said objective numbers were the key to maintaining a productive flock.

“We can go through the same mob four or five times a year and compare the data from the previous time and any time before that – we are recognising traits.”

The tag reader works to “read the resume” of the sheep, said Mr Shepherd.

Each machine is connected via Bluetooth and linked back to the tags – meaning each important stage in the sheep’s productive life has been recorded.