Tender now open for top sheep tool

13 Jan 2020

Dr Gordon Refshauge

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has sought partners to deliver a new hand-held device, which offers sheep producers the potential to boost flock reproduction rates.

Expressions of interest in the commercialisation rights to the sheep body conditioning tool are now open through the NSW DPI Global Ag-Tech, GATE, until Friday 31 January 2020.

NSW DPI livestock researcher, Gordon Refshauge, said the device has the potential to accurately score the body condition of billions of sheep and goats.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Currently producers visually judge body condition or assess body condition by hand, feeling the amount of muscle and fat tissue on the back of sheep.

Dr Refshauge said those subjective measurements have a low rate of repeatable results and can lead to discrepancies.

“I've 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,” he said.

“Producers make important decisions based on ewe body condition. These decisions impact on the allocation of scarce feed resources and play a major role in animal welfare, so we need to get the body condition score right.

“Matching feed requirements with appropriate feed resources improves the performance of the whole flock, in particular reproduction rates, and is increasingly important during droughts.

“Producers want this type of innovation - an accurate, easy to use device, which can be shared between operators and link with the existing platforms they use to manage sheep.”

Tender details are available online.

Hi-res images available from bernadette.york@dpi.nsw.gov.au.

Media contact: Bernadette York (02) 6938 1664, 0427 773 785