EID 'will be key to measuring performance'
A VERY positive outlook on the advantages – not the disadvantages and cost – of electronic identification of sheep, is highlighted in a new blog.
Promoted at the Royal Highland Winter Fair by Quality Meat Scotland’s Scottish Sheep Strategy – www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.uk – Alex Brewster’s blog documents this very commercially-minded Scottish sheep farmer’s experiences of using EID to assist with performance recording his flock – something to which he is already highly committed as part of the ‘Better Breeding’ project funded by Quality Meat Scotland’s Scottish Sheep Strategy.
In his first post to the blog, Alex said: “To manage it, you have to measure it and to measure it, you have to compile data. To manage data it is easier to use computers and this has thrust me into the physical and verbal EID debate “
Alex Brewster runs 1,800 ewes at Rotmell Farm, near Pitlochry, and on a farm he manages.
He has several objectives in mind to boost profitability and says the £3,500 or so he might spend in EID equipment needs to be viewed against the value of a 2.5kg increase in weaning weights he has already achieved by more laborious manual means of data recording.
Reduce twin numbers
Unusually, he wants to reduce the number of twins while gradually increasing average weight and milkiness of his Blackie ewes to improve lamb performance. His ideal ewe weight is 55kg.
He has also spent more than he has ever done before on a performance recorded tup, arguing that, in a tup with figures, he knows what he is buying. And Mr Brewster, who farms with father Alistair, is adamant knowing the health status of bought-in animals and the flocks they have come from, is also paramount.
Hence another aim, to breed more of his own tups with figures, with less reliance on buying in. Mr Brewster said he wanted to dispel the myths around how difficult it might be to performance record a whole flock. EID, he said, was key to minimising the ‘difficulty’.
“I have been able to take weights from my ewes at six a minute rather than one a minute.
“Recording lambs to ewes, I have had to get the families into a small handling pen between fields, EID tag the lambs and, with a hand-held reader, link the lambs to their EID dams, also listing their sex and date of birth.”
One missing link he suggests, is the current inability of abattoirs to maximise the kill data.
“It should be possible to bar-code carcases, like cattle,” he said.
- Rotmell is one of six Sheep Focus Farms in Scotland in the project aimed at quantifying the value of performance-recorded tups as sires of slaughter lambs and as sires of breeding ewes.