January 20, 2023

Getting started with individual livestock (EID) record keeping & management

Have you been thinking about individual livestock record-keeping? Do your livestock have Electronic Identification (EIDs) you’re not utilising? Are you wondering where to get started? 

We leaned on an expert in the field and nextgen Agri International’s founder Mark Ferguson for his advice for farmers getting started with EID record keeping and management. Read on to find out what we learned:

Table of contents:

  1. Start with a business objective
  2. When's the right time to get started with EID
  3. How to start recording EID data
  4. The most valuable individual records for a livestock operation
  5. Where to store and manage EID data
  6. Using EID records alongside farm management software

1. Start with a business objective

It’s essential to make sure you have a clear business objective when getting started with individual livestock records. Whether that’s to produce lots of lambs, calves, wool, or maybe to produce top-quality produce to sell at a premium? Start thinking about what you can influence in your genetics and management and how these records can save you time or money.
If you start without an objective, you risk wasting time and money on records you do not need.

2. When's the right time to get started with EID

Individual livestock record keeping and management is a powerful tool. It has the ability to put the icing on top of your livestock business and optimise your flock/herd. But when trying to get the best out of a livestock business, there’s some bigger fish to fry first. 

Things like scanning or preg testing, separating singles or twins at a mob level, condition scoring livestock to work out the best management choice are, quite rightly, first on the agenda. Once all your ducks are lined up, and the business is operating like a well-oiled machine, then that’s the right time to start considering the benefits of individual livestock records.

3. How to start recording EID data

Mark recommends starting simple and just getting an EID wand to start with. You don’t need expensive scale heads and auto-drafters to record some of the most important information. 

The most important records are created early in life when you put the ear tag in for the first time. A great way to start, is by simply adding the process of scanning that tag when it’s put in with your wand and adding in that key early-in-life information (see next topic for what to record).

You can always ‘level up’ and get panels or an auto drafter once you have the systems working to save time and increase efficiency down the track. We’d also recommend finding some help getting set up as well, either through a neighbour who’s done it before, or the experts at neXtgen Agri.

Mark Ferguson recommends TruTest’s XRS2 wand, because it has 16 fields that you can customise for your own records, is simple to use and pretty tolerant or yard conditions.

4. The most valuable individual records for a livestock operation

The most valuable records on any individual animal are the data points created early in life, because this information shapes the rest of their lives.
Things like:

  • Did the parent of this animal have twins or a single? 
  • Were they from a maiden or a heifer mob?
  • Were they from a mixed-age mob or an older mob?

The above records will help you understand what your best-performing livestock are. They’ll give a better backstory of why they could be smaller or bigger, finer or courser than the rest of the mob. This information is used at weaning and at classing or culling time for the biggest impact.

After these early-in-life records, there are a number of key data points that could help you make further improved decisions:

  • Weaning weight
  • Yearling weight
  • Condition scores (ideally just before the rams/bulls go out, if skinny at this time then they will likely be skinny the rest of their life)
  • Scanning/preg test results
  • Fleece weight (sheep)

5. Where to store and manage EID data

Once you’re all set up recording data, you’ll need to ‘dump’ that data into a software or a spreadsheet after each session. 

At the moment, Mark reckons nothing beats Excel and spreadsheets. Many of his clients use spreadsheets, and he doesn’t believe that any of the more dedicated software programs have quite perfected individual record-keeping with many of the systems being too complex or inflexible. However, this depends on your individual computer literacy and requirements, checking out the software options is recommended if you have no interest in learning some basic Excel skills or are unwilling to pay someone to do it for you.

6. Using EID records alongside farm management software

Keeping your individual livestock records slightly disconnected from a farm management software like Mobble will give you the flexibility you need to create value from your records. You don’t want a system putting you in a box and creating restrictions on the huge potential of individual livestock records.

At Mobble we’ll keep a close eye on the individual livestock management software market, and will be looking to partner with the best systems out there when they become available - at the moment, Excel will be your best friend. 

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