Animal Id and Traceability

Sheep and cattle breeders keen to try first pedigree proximity tags

Sheep Central September 4, 2017

The SmartShepherd smart tag system

AUSTRALIA’S world-first maternal pedigree collection ear tag system has had strong interest from sheep breeders and the beef industry since its development for farm trials was finalised recently.

SmartShepherd co-founder David Rubie said the smart tag system has had to be slightly modified to cope with the different behaviour of cattle and their tendency to park the calves for the day while cows graze.

“We are hoping to trial the system on cattle during October; we have found a trial site to should get some results from that pretty quickly.”

The ear tag appears to work a lot better on cattle with the current design, with fewer issues with the size of the tag, he said.

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Mr Rubie said SmartShepherd has had an overwhelming amount interest from sheep stud and commercial breeders since the company announced in July that its final production-proofing trial would start on a New South Wales property this month.

“Our trials so far have proved successful, although some of the lambs have proved too small for the ear tag, so we have reverted to a collar for those animals.

“This limits the amount of time the system can be left on, but that is no issue for getting the results.”

Mr Rubie said the company was still finalising its system and hope to trial the entire end-to-end system at the start of September.

“We were hoping to start making deliveries in October-November at this stage, as there are a couple of minor changes to the manufacture of the tag we need to make first, to make them a little better when working with sheep.”

Mr Rubie said feedback at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in July and at Hamilton’s Sheepvention in early August proved the concept “has legs.”

“We are going as fast as we can to fulfil the demand that was generated from those places.

“The system is a genuine competitor to genomic parentage testing and is affordable enough that commercial breeders could make some very fast strides to catch up with stud breeders in the amount of information they could record to improve their flocks.”

SmartShepherd founders David Rubie and Glenn Vassallo.

Several Australian and New Zealand projects are conducting or have finalised pedigree and motion detection tag trials with sheep, but the product developed by agricultural technology company SmartShepherd co-founders David Rubie and Glenn Vassallo is believed to be the first to be farm-ready as an ear tag.

The removable proximity-sensing tags work with low-energy radio technology, powered by a coin-size battery, to automate the collection of pedigree data for free-range livestock. The tags send data to nearby tags, and receive it from other tags, simultaneously, effectively linking the electronic tag on a ewe or cow with the EID tag on its lamb or calf to consolidate maternal pedigree.

The tags will retail for about $15 and last for three years. The batteries should last the lifetime of the tag, but they can be changed quickly and cheaply, Mr Rubie said.

“The tags keep the information on-board, they don’t have an external network connecting them and the information is read from the tags in the race when the animals are mustered.

“The whole system is designed to work where there is no internet, where there is no phone signal,” he said.

“Within 24 hours you can know the pedigree, but you can leave them on for months.”


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  1. Kate Sevier, September 4, 2017

    What a great advance for the industry. Congratulations.
    We tag and weigh each lamb at birth, but for others with large numbers this will be a great advantage for pedigree accuracy.

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