THE NSW Department of Primary Industries is seeking sheep producers to use a new hand-held device that gauges condition scores of breeding ewes to increase pregnancy and lambing rates.
Gordon Refshauge, livestock researcher with the DPI, said the device has the potential to accurately score the body condition of billions of sheep and goats and tenders are open for the commercialisation of the new tool.
“The aim is to give thousands of producers around the world the ability to match condition scores of breeding ewes to levels we know will deliver an increase in pregnancy and lambing rates,” Dr Refshauge said.
“Working through the GATE, with researchers from the University of Technology Sydney, we have developed a prototype, which is now ready to commercialise through the tender process,” he said.
“The new device will offer ease-of-use, quick results, accuracy and reliability. There is a natural fit between the device and technology used to manage individual sheep, including auto-drafting and decision support systems,” said Dr Refshauge.
Dr Refshauge said the current methods of feeling the amount of muscle and fat on the back of sheep is problematic and has a low rate of repeatable results.
“I’ve had competent, experienced people who have been trained to assess sheep, rate our research ewes as too fat, while another said the same sheep were too lean,” he said.
“Producers make important decisions based on ewe body condition. These decisions impact on the allocation of scarce feed resources and play a major role in animal welfare, so we need to get the body condition score right,” he said.
“Matching feed requirements with appropriate feed resources improves the performance of the whole flock, in particular reproduction rates, and is increasingly important during droughts,” he said.
“Producers want this type of innovation – an accurate, easy to use device, which can be shared between operators and link with the existing platforms they use to manage sheep,” Dr Refshauge said.
Expressions of interest in the commercialisation rights are open until Friday, January 31: Tender details.