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Micron 20 1352 +19
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Increasing your bottom line with agtech

There is a lot of hype out there about agricultural technology (agtech), and tonnes of solutions to wade through. For woolgrowers in particular, there is a large range of agtech that can provide efficient and fast methods of identifying and recording information against individual animals. These include technologies such as electronic identification (EID), fleece testing and weighing equipment, EID-assisted walk-over scales and auto drafters, smart tags, artificial intelligence, facial recognition technology, and specialised individual animal management software - just to name a few!

The aim with these technologies is to bring efficiencies in farm data collection, decision-making and consequently labour savings giving woolgrowers an opportunity to significantly improve profitability. The data collected can help identify the most and least productive animals within a flock, to put selection pressure on key profit drivers including reproductive efficiency, lamb survival, fleece diameter, fleece weight, growth rates and most importantly profit per hectare.

A lot of woolgrowers are already using these technologies today, but as we kick off another year, it is a good time to reflect on and consider: the type of agtech you are using (if any); how well you are using it; if you are getting enough value from it to improve your bottom line; and, if there are any bottlenecks or areas for improvement from making some changes to what or how you are using the agtech. It might also be the case that you haven’t yet made the leap to adopting any new agtech on-farm. With mandatory EID in WA set to take effect from July 2026, it may be time to start considering how you might implement EID’s on-farm. The good news is that EID’s together with automatic readers can provide an efficient and fast method of identifying and recording data against individual animals, so this technology is a good place to start if you are thinking about making any changes.

Some tips to help you get value from agtech

To get the most value from any technology it’s best to be strategic in your agtech management approach, by first identifying the problem you’re trying to solve or the areas you are looking to improve with your sheep. Next, think about what data will help you to make improvements in those areas. For example, you might be interested in monitoring individual:

  • fleece weights and fleece testing data;
  • live-weights with EID-assisted walk over scales;
  • ewe pregnancy scanning results e.g., empty, singles or twins and foetal age (early, mid and late‑lambing);
  • kilograms of lamb weaned per ewe. e.g., using Pedigree MatchMaker;
  • chemical treatments to monitor resistance; and
  • animal presence on farm to provide a simple stocktake. Having a regular EID recording of the last time that stock were present on the property will help with monitoring livestock theft, and assist with providing more accurate stock numbers for budgeting and forward-planning.

Once you’ve thought about what data you want to collect and track, next consider your criteria for how or when you will capture that information, who will be using the agtech and any requirements or constraints there might be. For example, consider the set-up of your yards, including any sheep handling and auto-drafting equipment and your software system. Make sure you ask around when searching for solutions. Discuss the options with your livestock advisor or farm consultant as there are many ways that don’t require a large investment of time or money.

Finally, make sure you start small and begin by just measuring a couple of aspects of individual performance within a flock before ramping things up. Starting slow and simple will help set your farm up for success when it comes to getting the most value from your agtech data usage.

Value to be gained from real time fleece testing technology

Fleece testing of individual animals is not new and many studs have been using this technology for years. However, on-farm and real-time fleece testing technology is a new development that will make this form of data collection more feasible for many woolgrowers. AWI has teamed up with Australian start-up company Zondii to investigate whether the company’s patented artificial intelligence and imaging technology can be used to successfully measure wool’s micron, and potentially colour and crimp using a hand-held device, in real-time, on-farm. The on-farm fibre measurement (OFFM) device is in the final stages of R&D.

The fleece testing data collected from this device could be used to make timely selection decisions for replacement animals after the first cull has been conducted on structural and visual traits. For example the individual fleece micron together with fleece weights from hoggets could be used to easily create a dollar return per head by culling the poorest 10-20% of animals. This activity alone could pay for the technology within 2 years without accounting for the long term gains that would be achieved through improved fleece micron and weight across the flock.

There are many other exciting agtech solutions still under development to be aware of. Such as AWI’s smart tags which will enable woolgrowers to track, monitor and assess the status of their flock in real-time, and also Genesmith’s artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology is currently undertaking trials in Australia matching lambs and ewes in the paddock. We will continue to keep you posted so that you have the latest information on new technologies.

Remember there is no such thing as a silver bullet when it comes to agtech and it must be used strategically to add value to your farm. Furthermore, agtech can only add value to your operation if the baseline nutrition, health and performance of your flock are managed well.

Find out more information here:

https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/management-reproduction/opportunities-individual-sheep-management-western-australia

https://www.wool.com/news-events/news/zondii/

https://www.wool.com/on-farm-research/smart-tags/

Georgia Pugh, AWI Extension WA