The UK laws for the compulsory electronic identification of sheep are relatively straightforward, all lambs must be identified with an ear tag or tags within 6 months of birth if housed overnight and 9 months if not housed overnight or before the animals move from the holding of birth – whichever occurs soonest.
Lambs intended for slaughter that are under 12 months old are identified using a single electronic identifier (EID) slaughter tag, lambs kept beyond 12 months must have the single tag replaced with a pair of tags (at least one of which must be an EID tag) known as breeding pairs.
Whilst the laws are clear regarding the use of electronic tags, the equipment used for reading EID tags is not mandatory and as a slaughter tag is often seen as being a last-minute necessity the feeling is that the cost outweighs the benefit as the EID ear tag is often cut out only a few hours after application with the technology it provides never used.
As a simple but effective management practice, double tagging lambs from birth enables farmers to build a greater understanding of their flock’s performance, with the extra precision that gathering real-time data brings from creating tupping groups to linking ewes and lambs the technology offers improvements in the efficiency and cost-effective use of the farm’s resources enabling more informed management decisions to be made.
EID technology enables data to be collected quickly and accurately, knowing the exact weight of individual animals within the flock reduces guesswork and ensures lambs and ewes are being managed efficiently and cost-effectively, whether it’s for calculating medicinal dosages, monitoring growth rates, or evaluating genetics, every detail counts when it comes to ensuring livestock are being produced to the correct weight and quality.
Whether finishing lambs for slaughter or breeding stock for sale, combining EID technology with an electronic weighing system enables farmers to record each animal’s weight throughout its lifetime, and potentially picking up health issues at an earlier stage.
The data captured by weighing lambs from birth and at regular intervals throughout their lifetime enables flock managers to scrutinise each animal’s records, identify where improvements can be made and deliver a more commercially valuable product. If your weighing system is compatible with an EID tag reader, collating the relevant data for each individual animal is quick and easy.
Button tags, especially those as small and light as the Allflex Mini EID Button tag, are ideally suited to new-born lambs. Applying these within 48 hours after birth enables shepherds and flock managers to easily scrutinise each animal’s performance throughout its life to determine if the current management regime is working effectively and to identify where improvements can be made.
With early market lambs, growth rates are critical. Weighing animals from birth and monthly thereafter (or weekly as they approach finishing weights) enables farmers to understand and assess the value of varying feed regimes and to make the most efficient and cost-effective use of the farm’s resources quickly and accurately.
With later born lambs, regular weighing provides huge benefits in terms of managing grazing, feeding more effectively and achieving consistent finishing weights as required by modern contracts.
Dependent on the economy of the individual farm, the money saved by reducing inputs such as anthelmintics and labour, as well as optimising the farm’s grazing resources and avoiding contract penalties by ensuring all livestock are sold within specification, will more than pay for the necessary EID reading equipment and electronic weigh scales in a relatively short space of time.
Recording and regular weighing can also improve other areas of flock management. Knowing each animal’s weight will ensure medicines are administered at the correct dosage and will help minimise the risk of drug resistance by preventing the over-application. Closely monitoring the weight gain of offspring can also improve breeding decisions by providing a better understanding of which genetic inputs are, or are not, delivering the requisite results. With accurate data, flock managers can make appropriate alterations to ensure breeding programme remains on track.
The benefits of how using a reader can help to reduce paperwork, eliminate administrative errors, and make flock management more efficient, less onerous and less time consuming, all tangible benefits, given the accuracy required for record keeping and legislation compliance.
EID tags provide a faster, more accurate and more reliable way of generating and maintaining individual animal records. The cost of double tagging lambs at birth is comparable with the price of a single slaughter tag, the benefits however of capturing and using data throughout the individual animal’s life provides advantages to both farm and flock.