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Mike Warren's experience with Tru-Test Stock Management might have some valuable lessons for Angus breeders. After all, if it's possible to use an integrated electronic tracking, weighing and data assessment approach on a total of more than 16,000 ewes, ram and ewe hoggets, and lambs, it should be a breeze with cattle, right?

Turanganui has been using Tru-Test weighing systems since 2001, a key management tool for 840ha Romney stud in the south Wairarapa, in producing between 1,000 and 1,100 rams for sale each year.

His first experince with the technology was as part of an AgResearch worm resilience trial, in which he weighed ewe lambs every ten days.

"I'd been watching technology develop for almost a decade fro the technology was pretty cut and dried."

He applies the integrated tracking, weighing and data analysis approach to lambs from only a few weeks of age, and it remains central to all decisions thereafter.

All lambs have EID tracking tags applied at docking and at weaning the animals are automatically drafted five ways into ram lambs, ewe lambs, cull ewes, cull lambs, and ewes.

This reduces labout considerably - previously it took four to five people at weaning, including manual weight recording, whereas it can now be done with three.

Mike says there is a secondary, but important benefit to the reduced labour requirement.

"it's pretty hard to find people who can work day-in day-out, manually recording the information. They tend to find the first couple of hundred lambs quite interesting, but after that it can be tough going for many people."

He says the speed and accuracy of information is a big plus.

"As soon as I get home I download all the data, forward it to the SIL bureau and receive a full list of breeding indexes focusing on the values we're most interested in."

Mike says the technology has been particularly helpful in developing particular traits.

"The SIL Index shows we are making quite a bit of progress. We've done a lot of work on fertility growth rates and worm resilience and are now focusing on saleable yield, so that lambs are as good as they can be at weaning."

It also means he is becoming increasingly selective.

"In the late 1970s we were offering for sale around 50% of rams - now the figure is between 27 and 28%. The whole thing is becoming much more selective, and this technology allows us to tick all the boxes."

"One of the things about having so much more information is that there are more good reasons to throw sheep out. In itself EID doesn't make the stock any better, it's a tool for increasing progress towards performance goals."

And Mike's advice for beef farmers considering the same technology?

"Deal with someone who's going to give your the back-up. It can be a steep learning curve at first and your success will depend on having good support."

He says the level of support required will depend on how ambitious you are with it.

"We've been lucky because right from the start we've asked a lot of the technology and Tru-Test has been really responsive. The very first time we used it we asked it to upload weights from SIL to the scales and then asked them to make a weight gain decision based on the weights recorded at the previous weighing as part of the worm resilience work." They did it.

"I guess we could have started a little more quietly, but there's so much it can do, it's hard to hold yourself back!"

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