Case Study - Rob O'Connor

TSi Enhances Wool and Cattle Operation's Profitability

Rob and Hanna O'Connor ensured they and their managers were at the forefront of integrating EID technology into Benham's diverse range of operations. They are using the Gallagher TSi and Sheep Auto Drafter to save time, money and improve accuracy - managing sheep and cattle and customising the TSi to their specific needs. Now they wouldn't be without the system.

Rob O'Connor and his staff know how measuring
what they do helps them improve.

The O'Connor family runs Benham Tasmania, a large superfine wool operation in Tasmania which produces 300 bales of wool a year. Benham sits on 16,000ha at Avoca, in north-east Tasmania's Fingal Valley. In the O'Connor family since the early 1800s, it's now owned and managed by seventh-generation Rob O'Connor and his wife Hanna.

These days wool comprises 15% of the property's overall operations. Rob and Hanna have also diversified into sheepmeat, cattle, native forestry, plus broadacre dryland and irrigated cropping, with a diverse annual and perennial system (including wheat, triticale, canola, poppies and seed crops). The O'Connors and their livestock operations managers Kirstie and Nathan Anderson are finding Gallagher hardware and software crucial in animal and fleece management.

The operation

Benham was traditionally a superfine (around 16 micron) Saxon-Spanish Merino sheep operation, with flock structure based on replacement wethers, achieving many seasonal-topping prices over the last eight decades. Kirstie says currently they've retained all the 2010 Merino wethers and have joined 10,000 ewes to Merino and Coopworth sires. This will enable them to produce cross-bred lambs that can be grown and finished on irrigated fodder crops for the domestic and export market, with a heavy focus for growth and muscling.

The O'Connors are... finding Gallagher hardware and software crucial in animal and fleece management.

Kirstie says their 'all-Gallagher' EID operation was one of the first off the rank with the TSi and other electronic equipment. They use a Gallagher TSi weigh scale indicator and livestock management system; a handheld electronic tag reader HR3; a barcode printer and reader; the Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter and numerous loadbars.

Uses and benefits

Kirstie says, "In our sheep operation, we use the Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter to record live weight and we also use the TSi's 'Session Default' option after events such as pregnancy scanning to rapidly record the result — for instance whether the ewe is empty, or if it's a single or multiple pregnancy."

"We draft sheep by using electronic tags and weights. We draft by rules created in the TSi with the Sheep Auto Drafter. These rules could be by ewe, by breed, by weight, or whichever combination of criteria we want for that time. A ewe has to meet all those criteria to go out a certain draft gate."

In their cross-bred lamb enterprise, they can use the Sheep Auto Drafter to quickly weigh up to 600 sheep an hour, drafting them into sale lines then back to the paddock quickly, reducing the stress that affects their performance.

They also use the EID system and Sheep Auto Drafter in the sheep stud to sort animals into mating mobs. "We can then run them as one mob and draft just before lambing, more efficiently managing the paddock and the mob. It's the same for drafting-out our cross-bred ewes into mating and lambing mobs."

At visual classing, each animal's history is instantly available, so Kirstie and Nathan can assess growth, wool values - which are available for each year - and the fertility result. "It allows us to achieve a highly productive flock."

They also individually test greasy fleece weight and micron. "We identify the mid-side sample that's taken when the sheep are in the shed for the pre-shearing crutch using the Bluetooth barcode

printer - no more reading tags and slowing down the operation," Kirstie explains.

Benham also uses the TSi in its Angus operation, recording cattle pedigree data and pregnancy-testing results, plus weights of trade stock.

Rob O'Connor quote: Having EID tags integrated with Gallagher EID products saves time - and time is money.

Faster, more accurate - and simple to use

"Having EID tags integrated with Gallagher EID products saves time - and time is money," says Kirstie. "Weighing sheep and drafting is much faster and can be done on more complex drafts than before. Because it is so simple and easy, we also tend to weigh more often, which is better in terms of managing condition."

Rob is also enjoying the benefits - now he only needs to quickly look through a simplified Excel spreadsheet (often only one page of data) to make his decisions - instead of trawling through copious amounts of material.

Kirstie says these days she couldn't see herself running sheep or cattle without the new system and getting in on EID during the early stages was a good decision.

"We are very proud to be part of helping develop the technology as our industry demands more individual animal management. Really, you've got to measure what you do — otherwise you can't improve."