Technology has certainly enabled us to breed better rams more efficiently.

Genetic Faults

We use an extensive and systematic reporting system reporting program to monitor and track genetic faults such as undershot mouths and one testicle ram lambs. Our database can report the frequency of faults for every sire we have used, both as a sire and as a sire of dam. This has helped to significantly reduce the incidence of these faults.

More recently we have extended this reporting to include mastitis and lumpy udders in our dams with the goal of reducing the prevalence of this problem in our breeding flock genetically. We have been udder scoring for shape and teat placement for many years.

FRBP the Felix Ram Breeders Program

When we first got into computers in the 1990’s there were very few programs developed for “stud” breeders, and what was available were inflexible and/or  cattle orientated. Rodney enrolled in a TAFE course on using Microsoft Office including MS Access, and immediately recognised the value of a relational database for record keeping in the ram breeding enterprise.

The result has been FRBP. Amongst other things, it links into Sheep Genetics via Pedigree Master so that asbvs are available and so bulk uploads of data can be made, is used for joining and lambing recording, printing sale information, and pen cards for our Annual Sale. Rodney has created a number of reports for analysis.


In the late 1990’s after we had fully embraced performance recording and selection using estimated breeding values, it occurred to Rodney that estimating the mid parent value of a mating of a ram and ewe would be useful. If you mate a sire with a pwwt ebv of 15 to a ewe with and pwwt ebv of 5, the progeny would have a ebv for pwwt of 10 plus or minus the effect of their measured performance. The logical extension of this is that it can be used to allocate sires to dams to produce progeny more likely to meet targets for an asbv.

Maximiser works by asking a series of questions about the midparent ebvs based around a set of targets. The ebv ranges required is set and if a mating meets the range, and the sire and dam are not related back to grandsire or sire of dam, Maxiimer displays a mid parent index for that mating.

Maximiser does this for 9 ebvs – BWT, PWWT, PFAT, PEMD, PWEC, LE DIR, LMY, IMF, and SHEARF5.

The sire is chosen in the Mate column, and then to the right of this is the mid-parent ebvs for the progeny.

Maximiser clearly helps us maximise the number of rams we can produce to meet client requirements, while also maximsing our rate of genetic improvement.

Electronic IDs

We first started using RFIDs or Electronic Ids in 2011. We are also quite comfortable to recommend the Shearwell tags as the best we have used for retention and readability. You can order the tags online and they have always arrived extremely promptly. Shearwell are excellent to deal with and in 2016 freely refunded us the price difference between the tags we had ordered in May and the new price after June 30.

It would be fair to say that EID has revolutionaised what we do.  I sometimes wonder how we used to do what we do with visual tags.

TruTest XRS stick reader. These stick readers have an alert function, so that you can upload alerts to it and then it beeps differently and displays that alert when a tag is read. This is a brilliant feature. Some of its uses were for finding particular animals in a group, and lot numbers at ram sale time. We also would upload the mate allocations from Maximer to it so that drafting for joining  was a dot and draft process. The XRS would tell us that ewe xxxx needed a red dot on the head. Red dots on the head went to Ram A, blue dots went to Ram B etc.

It also has a continuous read function – we use this at lamb marking, waving a lamb past the reader at release so that all lambs alive at marking are known. Great for verifying whether readered single or twin, and also for identifying lambs that we wanted to check the dam of.

Gallagher Smart TSI upgraded to TrueTest XR5000

This bluetoothed to our stick reader and connected to the electronic scales. We set it up so that the display showed all the latest asbvs for the animal so it was great for classing. It ended up being a bit slow (needs a bigger processor) and was a tad heavy to hold in the yards while classing. We have upgrade to a TruTest XR5000, lighter, fatser , simpler and drives the autodrafter.

Pratley autodrafter

After using eids for 5 years we finally decided on which autodrafter to buy. In the end we wanted a drafter that sheep would run through very easily, and more than once on the same day, so decided to go with just an autodrafter and not a combination handler/drafter.

The Pratley has exceeded expectations. We’ve probably used it nearly every second day this month (January 2017) for drafting mating groups, selecting ai ewes and for ram selection and sales. Even rams run through it repeatably very well. The added bonus is that we are routinely collecting adult ewe weights, ram weights, and average daily gain. It has replaced many of the functions we used the XRS stick reader for.

DNA testing

We routinely DNA test around 10% of our ram lambs at either marking or shortly after weaning.  Additionally we use DNA to help verify pedigrees we are uncertain on. Every sire (with one exception of an outside sire) we have used since 2016 has been DNA tested to confirm sire pedigree. 124 home bred Felix sires have been DNA tested.

Our belief is that DNA testing to confrim pedigree is fundamental to good performance recording, and that Sheep Genetics should not provide asbvs where a sire’s pedigree has not been confirmed by DNA testing

We use the asbvs for eating quality, lean meat yield and dressing percentage that come from a combination of pedigree, correlated traits and DNA in our selection. The value and accuracy of these traits is still quite low, and it is a long game to maintain and improve eating quality, not a short term, fix.

DNA is only as good as the information supplied, and is highly dependant on pedigree and measured traits.

Drafting ewes into mating groups

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