How fat was my flock?

Researchers at CSIRO in Australia are trialling a solar-powered, stand-alone, walk-through sheep weighing system designed to reduce flock management costs.

Researchers at CSIRO are trialling a solar-powered, stand-alone, walk-through sheep weighing system designed to reduce flock management costs.

The system’s ability to regularly monitor changes in individual sheep’s weight is expected to prove invaluable to sheep farmers concerned with ensuring that diseased or malnourished sheep are quickly identified and ‘removed’ from their flocks.

Designed by CSIRO Livestock Industries and funded by the Australian Sheep Industry Cooperative Research Centre (Sheep CRC), the trailer-mounted system logs a sheep’s electronic identification tag and weight as it walks through a race and across electronic scales. Each animal’s details are then transmitted via the CDMA mobile network to an office computer.

The first on-farm trial in mid-June this year tested the system’s ability to accurately weigh individual animals as they walked over a platform.

Work on the second phase of the project aims to add a remote drafting function.

This will mean the system can automatically select and remove individual animals from a flock according to a range of criteria including: if they have reached sale weight or if they are underweight and need supplementary feeding or ‘drenching’.The third phase of the project will look at developing different sensors to aid drafting, such as systems that can detect flystrike and screen for parasite infection.

For example, when selecting sheep for drenching, the walk-through weigher could be programmed to select only those sheep with high ‘worm burdens’. This would lead to cost savings and extend the life of drenches by reducing the potential for drench resistance.

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