Case Study - Warren Russell

Gallagher Animal Management Tools Enhance Melrose’s Profitability

Working on their Victoria property since 1880, the Russell family has now entered a new generation of farming efficiency with the TSi. When Warren and Emma Russell began using EBVs, they needed an easier way to collect more-accurate data. They chose the TSi because of its advanced technology, ease of use and its ability to integrate with other products.

Warren Russell: The TSi is a "terrific tool in
animal management".

Breeding at Melrose Merino Stud is focused on profitability. The southern Wimmera property, at Nurrabiel south of Horsham, has been run by the Russell family for five generations. Selected in 1880, shortly afterwards the now-2,034ha property began running fine-wool sheep, establishing a horned Merino stud in 1934 and a poll stud in 1995.

Today, Warren Russell manages the stud, with his wife Emma; children Tom, Lucy and Alex; and parents John and Barbara. They crop 500ha and run 2,500 breeding ewes, of which 600 are stud ewes, selling about 80 rams a year.

Having collected a reasonable amount of data on their sheep since the late 1970s, beginning with micron testing and fleece weighing, Warren says when they began using EBVs, the need to collect more-accurate data more easily pushed them to look at electronic tags and the associated equipment.

An exhaustive search saw them evaluate several systems. They finally chose the Gallagher equipment for several reasons, including that it is “much more advanced” Warren says.

Melrose runs the basics Warren thinks a Merino stud would need: a TSi, bar-code printer and scanner, a tag-scanning wand and a weigh crate, all from Gallagher.

Save money

“We have weigh bars from a previous weighing system, made by another company. Another selling point for us was that they plug straight into the Gallagher gear."

“It meant we didn’t have to fork out for replacements, when there was nothing wrong with what we had. I think that’s a great thing, it’s very handy.”

Error free, quicker, less labour

“We use the Gallagher hardware and software for ease of data collection, to reduce errors, to allow greater accuracy and for ease of doing jobs. It removes a huge amount of human error: just in fleece weighing, you’ve taken away three or four opportunities to make a mistake. It’s also allowed us to reduce labour."

Warren Russell quote: Another great aspect with the Gallagher software is that it is very easy to import and export data.

“Fleece weighing takes one less person, while sheep classing is a big saver; previously, we needed four people, now we can now cut it down to two."

"Before, we had to physically restrain the animal, read the tag and get somebody to look up the information either by typing into the computer or looking through printed paper.'

 "Now with the TSi, the animal is scanned, and its data pops up on the screen immediately in front of you. Adding information is just much simpler.”

Data analysis drives profitability

Warren (who is on the Victorian Stud Merino Sheepbreeders Association Inc. Committee, Sheep Genetic Advisory Group and the Merino Consulting Group of Sheep Genetics) says data analysis is important to what Melrose does. The stud uses objective measurement, Merinoselect ASBVs, indexes and visual appraisal in classing ewes and selecting rams.

“The advantage of having all that information is that it allows us to see an animal’s performance over various traits and be able to assess its effect on our business bottom line.”

Terrific tool for data

Warren says, “Another great aspect with the Gallagher software is that it is very easy to import and export data. We were one of the first studs to use TopStud and help with its development. Mothering data is the one aspect we enter directly into TopStud, otherwise, all information we gather with the TSi, we export to TopStud. Going both ways is very easy and straightforward."

“As part of Melrose’s breeding philosophy of balance in all areas, our family believes in using every tool available to breed the best fine-wool Merinos we possibly can."

"The Gallagher TSi has facilitated quick and accurate data recording and management. It’s a terrific tool in animal management.”