A new device aims to boost flock reproduction rates by helping producers accurately score the body condition of sheep and goats.
The device has been developed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
NSW DPI livestock researcher Dr Gordon Refshauge said condition scoring was a technique where a farmer would use their hand to feel the amount of muscle and fat tissue on the back of sheep. "There aren't a lot of farmers using condition scoring as a technique," Dr Refshauge said.
"But it's a quick way to judge an animal's nutritional requirements in the next three months. The problem is that the technique is subjective.
"I have 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.
"This device will help increase the accuracy, the speed and the ability to use the information in a meaningful way to improve performance and health of their own flocks.
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"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 it was important to get the body condition score right as producers made important decisions based on sheep body condition.
"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, which is an accurate, easy-to-use device, which can be shared between operators and link with the existing platforms they use to manage sheep."
Expressions of interest in the commercialisation rights to the sheep body conditioning tool are now open through NSW DPI's Global Ag-Tech Ecosystem (GATE) until Friday January 31.
It took 18 months for the development process, which included research and testing to come up with the new tool.
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"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," Dr Refshauge said.
"We have prepared the device and it is ready to go to commercial partner to review and take to the market or, if they desire, they can modify it themselves.
"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."
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