Maternal pedigree data at the touch of a tag

Stud breeders will soon be able to collect maternal pedigree data easily with the development of a smart tag to gather information.

The collaboration between Meat & Livestock Australia and agricultural technology company SmartShepherd is working on a lightweight, re-usable smart tag to gather and transmit relationship data.

The result will be more efficient and accurate identification of mothers and their offspring in sheep, cattle and goat operations.

There’s no GPS or internet connectivity involved – instead the system uses Bluetooth technology and Internet of Things architecture.

SmartShepherd co-founder and CEO, David Rubie, said the technology was designed to give producers an easier way to improve the maternal side of their livestock genetics.

“In any sheep enterprise, the real drivers of profit are breeding ewes – their performance with respect to fertility and mothering ability will always dictate how successful you are,” Mr Rubie said.

“Field trials of the SmartShepherd system in Australia achieved 96 percent pedigree accuracy within 48 hours of the tags being placed on the ewes and lambs.

“The smart tags can be re-used meaning the cost of determining pedigree will be a fraction of the cost of genomics. Due to this shift in economics it will be possible to perform full pedigree recording over entire commercial flocks or herds.”

It’s hoped the system will become commercially available for next year’s lambing season.

Richmond Merino Stud principal Trevor Ryan, Quandialla, NSW, trialled the SmartShepherd system on a flock of stud ewes with 62 lambs at foot.

“We received an accurate dam match for 61 of them in less than two days which exceeded my expectations,” Mr Ryan said.

“The SmartShepherd pedigree system is much cheaper than DNA testing and will save us a great deal in time and labour compared to mothering-up by hand."

MDC CEO Dr Christine Pitt said the SmartShepherd project was one example of how MDC, through I+E Connect, is attracting and supporting exciting start-ups and ideas to the Australian red meat industry.

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