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Repeatability and frequency of in-paddock sheep walk-over weights: implications for individual animal management
- Brown, D. J., Savage, D. B., Hinch, G. N.
- Animal production science 2014 v.54 no.2 pp. 207-213
- animal husbandry, body weight, confidence interval, decision making, digestive system, flocks, nutritional status, radio frequency identification, sheep
- Sheep liveweight is an indicator of nutritional status, and its measure may be used as an aid to nutritional management. When walk-over weighing (WOW), a remote weighing concept for grazing sheep, is combined with radio frequency identification (RFID), resulting ‘RFID-linked WOW’ data may enable the liveweight of individual sheep to be tracked over time. We investigated whether RFID-linked WOW data is sufficiently repeatable and frequent to generate individual liveweight estimates with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) of <2 kg (a sufficient level of error to account for fluctuating gut fill) for a flock within timeframes suitable for management (1-day and 5-day timeframes). Four flocks of sheep were used to generate RFID-linked WOW datasets. RFID-linked WOW data were organised into three groups: raw (unfiltered), coarse filtered (remove all sheep-weights outside the flock’s liveweight range), and fine filtered (remove all sheep-weights outside a 25% range of a recent flock average reference liveweight). The repeatability of raw (unfiltered) RFID-linked WOW data was low (0.20), while a coarse (0.46) and fine (0.76) data filter improved repeatability. The 95% CI of raw RFID-linked WOW data was 27 kg, and was decreased by a coarse (11 kg) and fine (6 kg) data filter. Increasing the number of raw, coarse and fine-filtered data points to 190, 30 and 12 sheep-weights, respectively, decreased the 95% CI to <2 kg. The mean cumulative percentage of sheep achieving >11 fine-filtered RFID-linked WOW sheep-weights within a 1-day and 5-day timeframe was 0 and 10%, respectively. The null hypothesis was accepted: RFID-linked WOW data had low repeatability and was unable to generate liveweight estimates with a 95% CI of less than 2 kg within a suitable timeframe. Therefore, at this stage, RFID-linked WOW is not recommended for on-farm decision making of individual sheep.