Head Shepherd

Mark Ferguson

Mark Ferguson from neXtgen Agri brings you the latest in livestock, genetics, innovation and technology. We focus on sheep and beef farming in Australia and New Zealand and the people doing great things in those industries.

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Episodes

Reducing Drench Usage in Sheep with Nick Cotter
5d ago
Reducing Drench Usage in Sheep with Nick Cotter
Send us a Text Message.From direct organic lamb sales to a firewood business and developing algorithms for drench recommendations, the Cotter family pretty much do it all. This week we have Nick Cotter of Cotter Agritech on the podcast to chat about their farm in County Limerick, Ireland, and the various inventions and innovations they have come up with. In Ireland, sheep farming is considered the least profitable, behind beef and dairy. This prompted the Cotter family to convert to organic farming in 2014. Nick Cotter discusses the challenges of organic farming and the direct marketing of organic lamb products. "It is bloody hard and there is a lot of work in it. But if you get it right, there is a significant premium to be found," he explains. As the proverb goes, necessity is the mother of invention and Nick explains that the added challenges of being organic inspired them to create “a lot of good ideas.”One of their first ideas was their CotterCrate, a manual sheep handling and weighing system. The handling system was thought up after having to handle lambs more often under an organic regime. They developed it over a year, adding and changing things as they went. Then they took it on the road and worked with farmers to finesse the design. So, it is truly built by farmers, for farmers.Their latest engineering feat is SmartWorm. As an organic producer, Nick is all too aware of the challenge of reducing drench usage, along with minimising drench resistance in sheep and cattle farming, so Cotter Agritech created technology to combat the issue. Instead of directly counting worms, SmartWorm assesses the real-time impact on lamb performance through a special algorithm. The tool integrates multiple factors to make accurate predictions for drenching, significantly reducing unnecessary dosing without compromising animal health or weight gain. The algorithm considers factors such as recent weather conditions, lamb physiology, recent drenches and pasture availability. With real-time analysis, it accurately determines whether treatment is necessary for each lamb.Cotter Agritech is currently focused on driving the adoption of SmartWorm technology in Ireland, the UK, New Zealand and Australia, with plans for expansion into cattle farming.If you are interested in working with Cotter Agritech, contact Nick at info@cottergagritech.com.You can find out more about their technology here: cotteragritech.com. And, there is more information about their premium lamb sales here: https://www.cotterorganiclamb.ie/Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Building Futures in Agriculture with Nancy Crawshaw
Jun 9 2024
Building Futures in Agriculture with Nancy Crawshaw
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast we have Nancy Crawshaw, Extension Manager for Angus Australia and winner of the New Zealand Zanda McDonald Award 2024.The conversation kicks off with Nancy’s reflections on the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle in her home region of Gisborne. “It brought communities together,” says Nancy. “When you're completely cut off, you've got no outside communication, you can't get anywhere. It's only your neighbours and your community who you've got.”  As for the recovery, Nancy points out that there’s still a long way to go. “With the land being so wet, it's been moving. You can go and fix a fence one day and then it's down the next,” she explains. “There's been a lot of repairs that probably need to be done, but we're just waiting to see if that land sort of holds up or not.” Nancy highlights that it’s important to celebrate the small wins, such as a stock-proof paddock, rather than only looking at the overwhelming task ahead of you. Nancy’s role as Extension Manager for Augus Australia takes her across Australia and New Zealand meeting producers and helping them add value to their business, be that through identifying ‘low-hanging fruit’ or education. Nancy is also heavily involved in the Angus youth program, GenAngus which is an initiative to help youth in agriculture with their first steps in agriculture. Nancy has been involved in multiple youth initiatives in agriculture and is a firm believer in surrounding yourself with the right people and finding specific mentors within the sector you want to grow in. “You have to ask yourself: who do you actually want to learn from? Who is there in the industry that you want be mentored by and learn from, that's going to actually set you up?” asks Nancy. This is a fantastic podcast to inspire any young people in agriculture, so make sure to forward it on to your children or young shepherds! Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
The power of staying curious with Nigel Kerin
Jun 2 2024
The power of staying curious with Nigel Kerin
Send us a Text Message.Nigel Kerin returns to the podcast this week to discuss profit drivers, decision rules, staying curious and the importance of science and technology in farming.Nigel has a great way of thinking about the business of farming and no decision is made without analysing it first. Nigel uses a triangular model to help him make these hard decisions.“Down one side of the triangle, you've got business growth. Down the bottom, you've got cash flow. And up the other side of the triangle, you've got people, infrastructure, and I've now added technology into it.”Nigel runs each of his decisions through this model, “For me to go ahead and go down a particular path of doing something, [I ask] does it fit in with those three sides of that triangle?” This opens up a series of questions that help him look at the decision from multiple perspectives. “Does it increase growth? Does it increase cash? Have I got the infrastructure and people and the technology to do this at scale? And when I look down each side of that triangle, where's the weakest link in our business at the moment? Is it actually growth? Is it cash flow? Do we have a people problem at the moment, which may be a lack of staff? Do we have an infrastructure problem? That can be wire and mortar, stockyards, cattle yards, sheep yards and laneway systems. Or do we have a lack of technology?”Nigel puts great emphasis on staying curious. “You're constantly opening your mind up to shortcuts and those 1% changes are what drive a business.”Not every idea he has makes it past the triangle stage, but that doesn’t stop him thinking about new ideas and concepts. “It’s a massive profit driver in your business, no matter what business you're in, whether you're in a news agency or pharmacy or butcher shop or farming - whatever. If you're constantly in a curious mindset, you've got your mind and your peripheral vision open to new ideas all the time.”Nigel explains that these ideas come about, not from staying on the farm 365 days a year, but from getting out and learning from more informed people: consultants, courses, open days or events such as Lambex or Beef. “What football side wins a grand final without a coach? What tennis player at Wimbledon wins without a coach?” asks Nigel. “I don't have to know everything and I don't have to be that incredibly clever, just as long as I'm bringing those people into our business to help us question how we make decisions, help us make decisions and sometimes hold our hands whilst we're making those decisions.”As with Nigel's previous podcast, ‘Turning Grass into Money’, this episode is worth sharing amongst staff, friends and family. There are many gems, from mindset changes to practical on-farm examples of success. Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
The Future of Sheep: Preview of Lambex 2024 with Jason Schulz
May 26 2024
The Future of Sheep: Preview of Lambex 2024 with Jason Schulz
Send us a Text Message.Are you heading to Lambex this year? If you’re not already going, you’ll want to be there after listening to this week's podcast! Our guest this week is Jason Schulz, chair of Lambex. After a six-year break, Lambex is back and better than ever. For those not familiar with the event, Lambex is a three-day event that celebrates and promotes Australia’s sheep and lamb industry, with more than 1,200 people attending. Speakers range from the likes Dr Tim Elliott talking about drench resistance, to Steve Wiedemann discussing carbon, to our own Dr Mark Ferguson discussing “The very real future of Artificial Intelligence”. Other speakers will address heat tolerance, ewe lamb joining, pain perception, and much, much more.Jason discusses his role as chair of Lambex and highlights how events like Lambex provide an opportunity for everyone in the industry to come together and learn from one another. “I like to think that the producers that have attended Lambex in the past have really gone home and made a change from what they've heard … or they've met a … contact within the industry that they may not have had before, which could be enterprise-changing or give them the opportunity to learn,” says Jason.If you are interested in attending Lambex, early bird tickets are available until 30 June. Accommodation options can be booked through the Lambex website here: https://www.lambex.org.au/register.Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Irrigation Insights with Tessa Chartres
May 19 2024
Irrigation Insights with Tessa Chartres
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast we have one of the fantastic winners of the 2024 Zanda McDonald Award, Tessa Chartres, to discuss her career, how she manages her work-life balance and much more.Tessa grew up on a farm in Bathurst. She became an accountant, specialising in agribusiness and farming, and later moved to Deniliquin to be with her husband. There, she joined Murray Irrigation, where she is now the General Manager of Business Development. With Muray Irrigation providing irrigation for 740,000 hectares of farmland, Tessa's role is certainly diverse.“The thing I love about irrigation is I get to be a part of so many different industries across the ag sector. I see so many different crops or livestock or dairies or any of those things,” she explains. “Being part of the water sector means I get to have an influence on all of those parts and enable all of those different strains of the ag sector to exist in our footprint.”Tessa sees irrigation as the lifeblood of the region and believes that Murray Irrigation is vital in ensuring the growth and sustainability of the region. With that comes a huge responsibility, particularly in light of climate change, environmental impacts and the concept of water as a tradable commodity. “What has been interesting about it, has been how people have adapted to the change in water availability, both from water being removed through mechanisms for the environment and just with climate change,” Tessa explains. “What I see is often people adapting to those in really interesting and different ways within their business models. Concepts around permanent and temporary water and how people can structure their businesses to suit the commodity that they're producing is something that, from my business mind, I've found that interesting.”Tessa and Mark also discuss work-life balance, the importance of good employers, a lively community and how she made all of this happen with two young twins! Tessa's story is a great example of a mutually successful career trajectory and personal life.Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
What is an estimated breeding value?
May 12 2024
What is an estimated breeding value?
Send us a Text Message.Breeding values are something we discuss a lot here at neXtgen Agri. We decided to do a podcast episode explaining exactly what they are and how they are ‘built’.Today, Daniel Brown, Principal Scientist at Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), joins us to discuss what breeding values are, how they are developed, their role, the impact of genomics and the future of genetic evaluation.Mark and Daniel begin with the basics of breeding values and the benefits of genomic testing. “Breeders record pedigree and performance information for a range of traits. A breeding value amalgamates all that performance information on an animal - and its relatives - for a range of traits, into an estimated genetic merit,” explains Daniel. “It’s essentially taking individual performance data and amalgamating it through the pedigree and adjusting for things like environmental effects … to get the best estimate we can of an animal's genetic merit.”Daniel explains that as more and more producers utilise genomics, the reference population is getting considerably larger, which opens up the opportunity for breeders to get fairly accurate breeding values for young animals from just a DNA sample. Genomics also gives you the ability to see which genes were inherited from which parent. It’s often assumed that both humans and animals inherit 50% from each parent, but this isn’t true. “The genomic information gives us a much more accurate measure of the relationship. Unlike the standard assumption, that you get half your genes from mum and dad, it actually varies from … 25 to 60 … it might change between individuals. So it gives us the ability to estimate relationships much more accurately,” Daniel explains. Mark and Daniel discuss both the history of breeding values and also the future. The field of genetic evaluation is constantly evolving, with the potential for changes in genotyping methods and the inclusion of new traits.  With more data, comes more answers - we just need to find them, says Daniel. Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
How the Rumen Works with Rob Bell
May 5 2024
How the Rumen Works with Rob Bell
Send us a Text Message.Understanding the rumen is a key part of being a top-performing producer. While we might think of them as herbivores, Rob explains it’s a little more complex than that.“They're more what we'd call a ‘fermentivore’. What they actually digest is the sludge and the byproducts of bacterial fermentation,” explains Rob. “If we think about everything in the context of what we put down an animal's throat and how it impacts fermentation - how does it influence bug populations and then the resulting outcome of that fermentation? That is what really drives both the production and the profitability of enterprises.”Rob does a great job of explaining more about this and the processes that go on inside the rumen and how we can best manage the rumen pH and the fermentation process for optimum production. Rob and Mark also discuss grain feeding and various crops and the impact of those feeds on how the rumen functions.By the end of this podcast, you will have a better understanding of how to work alongside the rumen to maximise your production on-farm. If you haven’t listened to our previous podcast with Rob, ‘Successful weaning practices’, listen here: https://www.nextgenagri.com/articles/successful-weaning-practices-with-rob-bellHead Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
‘Animal science Down Under’ with Alan Bell
Apr 28 2024
‘Animal science Down Under’ with Alan Bell
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast we have Professor Emeritus of Animal Science at Cornell University, Alan Bell, discussing his recent paper ‘Animal science Down Under: a history of research, development and extension in support of Australia’s livestock industries’. In this paper, Alan discusses how back in 1788, as you may have guessed, “There wasn't any real systematic research done on the livestock side,” with the advances in the industry being achieved by the producers. He says, “It was really the innovative farmers, who were battling in a very foreign environment, to make money eventually, that had some wonderful successes.”Alan runs through the following years, with the establishment of agricultural departments and colleges, before and between the two World Wars, with CSIRO being one of the most influential. Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, agriculture research was in what Alan calls the ‘golden years’. A time for practically limitless scientific exploration, mostly funded by the Wool Board, but also encouraged by strong political support and led by particular scientific ‘visionaries’. “Maybe that's just nostalgia, but I tell people that I began my career at the end of the golden era,” says Alan.The 1970s and 1980s brought a more structured approach, with markets being more uncertain and funding being allocated elsewhere. However, through government initiatives and the introduction of levies, great research was still performed. For example, the beginnings of genomics for production and health traits. Mark and Alan finish off by discussing the current state of research in agriculture and where it’s heading in the future.This is a wonderful podcast and a must-listen for anyone interested in agriculture, history and the science that built the foundations of a great industry.You can find Alan's paper here:https://www.publish.csiro.au/an/pdf/AN19161Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Tough Times, Tougher Farmers: The FarmFitNZ Approach with Kane Brisco
Apr 21 2024
Tough Times, Tougher Farmers: The FarmFitNZ Approach with Kane Brisco
Send us a Text Message.When the going gets tough on farm, it's the tough who get going. But what fuels that resilience? This week on the Head Shepherd podcast, we have Kane Brisco of FarmFitNZ to discuss mental wellbeing, farm fitness and community.In his late twenties, Kane found himself in a tough spot. He’d stopped participating in his local rugby team and his passion for farming had faded, so he didn’t know what to do with himself. Instead of packing up and changing careers, Kane took a step back and worked out what he needed to do to get himself out of that funk.Each day, Kane starts with a routine that sets him up for success. Firstly, feed yourself right, says Kane. “You're fuelling up, it's like putting gas in your motorbike tank, you know? You don't expect it to run on empty all day, so we can't expect to do it ourselves."Next, start with a purpose. Kane recommends writing down a list of what you want to achieve that day, stick to it and - most importantly - don’t forget to tick things off as you complete them.  “Everybody needs a purpose when they get out of bed, so for me, that's just a simple way to get a bit of clarity on the day. It takes about two minutes, not even that some days. It's a good feeling to cross them off, you know, a bit of satisfaction even on a tough day if you can just cross one of them off. It does perk you up over time,” shares Kane.And, of course, we couldn’t talk to the founder of FarmFitNZ without discussing the influence of physical health on mental health. At his worst, Kane realised that when his physical fitness was low, so was his mental resilience. “It was that time in my life that made me realise how important it is to be physically prepared for a physical job and how that ties into your mental capability and your frame of mind and I guess your mindset and ultimately your mental health. They both work together and they're both linked,” says Kane.Kane began running a ‘boot camp’ from his driveway for local farmers, giving them an opportunity to build strength and resilience, as well as generating that great rural community spirit. He explains, “It was just a matter of putting it out to the local community, to get them off the farm to my driveway basically to get a sweat on and test the lungs out and get together.”“A lot of them had never done that before, something formal like that. But most of all, it was the communication with the other farmers, their neighbours from 5 km down the road that they didn't see too often … just having a catch-up, sharing what was going on regularly with each other's lives,” says Kane. “It wasn’t as much about getting fit and strong. It was actually just sharing with each other and creating those bonds within the community. You couldn't put a price on that if you tried."If you’d like to know more, Kane has recently written a book about his journeHead Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Tackling Ewe Wastage with Anne Ridler
Apr 14 2024
Tackling Ewe Wastage with Anne Ridler
Send us a Text Message.Replacement rates in your sheep flock are determined by your ewe losses and your culling decisions. For every ewe lamb you choose to keep, that’s one less to sell. In this week's podcast our guest, Associate Professor Anne Ridler, discusses the findings from her recent study on ewe wastage in New Zealand sheep farming. Anne’s research found that, on average, 28 to 30 per cent of ewes leave the flock annually in New Zealand. The study aimed to understand when and why ewes exit the flock and how to reduce that wastage. Let's break those numbers down … say you have 1,000 ewes at mating time:At scanning time, of those 1,000, 33 will leave the flock because they’re dry. Before set stocking, another 18 ewes will go due to non-reproductive reasons such as low BCS and 17 will die in this time. So, of your original 1,000, you have 932 left by the start of lambing. Lambing is the highest risk period, with two-thirds of your losses occurring during this period. The average is 3.7 per cent. So, that’s another 37 ewes leaving the flock up until mid-lactation/docking, leaving you with 895 ewes.If you decide to cull wet-dries at lamb-marking, the average is 3.8 per cent, meaning another 38 ewes leave the flock, reducing your number to 874. However, another 33 ewes exit the flock between docking/tailing and breeding of year two, some of which will be wet/dry (on average, across all the farms), some will be culled for other reasons and some will die.Then, post-weaning, based on udder issues, age, teeth or other decisions, farmers choose to cull, on average, 15.4%. That leaves you with 708 ewes and so 292 replacements need to enter the flock to get back to 1,000 for breeding.Whilst these numbers might seem a bit confronting, they give a great insight into how you can reduce the number of replacements you require.With most losses occurring during lambing, Anne suggests this could be an area to focus on. Feeding ewes well during pregnancy to avoid metabolic issues is a big part of keeping your ewes alive. But there are other things you can do, such as paddock audits and cast beats. Mark and Anne also discuss other options such as keeping wet-dries and putting them to a terminal ram.We would be interested to hear what you base your culling decisions on. Is it age? Do you give your wet-dries a second chance? Let us know.The study this information was derived from was funded by the Massey-Lincoln and Agricultural Trust and done in collaboration with Lincoln University.Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Precision Farming with Tim Leeming
Apr 7 2024
Precision Farming with Tim Leeming
Send us a Text Message.In this current climate, should you be looking for ways to save money on farm? Or should you be looking at upping your production to cover rising costs?This week on the Head Shepherd podcast, we hope to answer those questions for you. Our guest this week, Tim Leeming, is well known for his precision lambing and we’ve had him as a guest on the podcast before (go check that one out here). In this episode, Tim discusses his strategies for farming success. “When it comes to your production system - when it comes to understanding what drives that in your business - whether you've got paddocks that need to be subdivided, whether you've got soil fertility that needs improving, pasture composition that needs improving … If you're a good farm manager and have a reasonable base knowledge of how the job rolls … it's not rocket science.”Tim and Ferg discuss the mindset behind cutting costs vs upping production. While the current advice may be to not join ewe lambs or containment feed, Tim believes in identifying where profit margins exist for a job done well. “If you do a bad job, of course, the economics of those two things might be pretty ordinary, but if you do it well, the margins are there. They're proven margins. We've seen it,” says Tim.Tim emphasises the need for clear targets and disciplined execution. “We've got evidence of it, that if you manage your nutrition right in ewe lambs and hit these targets and do all the right things, guess what, you'll get a bloody good result, and those sheep will pay you dividends for the rest of their life on your farm because you've done that well.”Discipline is a big theme throughout this week's podcast, with Tim collecting data when the opportunity presents itself (for example, ewe body condition when ewes are in the yards). “If you think about a mob of ewes, for instance, and how many times that they might visit the stockyards over the year. There are probably at least eight times in a year that those animals will be in a yard facility and generally, they will be going up a drafting race or drenching race or through a sheep handler,” he explains.For Tim, consistently doing the small things well sets a foundation for long-term success. “It's a two, four, five-minute job to get a line in the sand on where that condition score of that mob is at that particular time. I'm like a dog with a bone. I’m very, very persistent on making sure that we record that, every time we're bringing those livestock in the yards,” says Tim. “It’s so important in your decision-making and your management. So, you know, that is a discipline thing.” Tim has a huge passion for farming and there are some great takeaways from this podcasHead Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Sheep Producers Australia: Insights from CEO Bonnie Skinner
Mar 31 2024
Sheep Producers Australia: Insights from CEO Bonnie Skinner
Send us a Text Message.Our guest on the podcast this week is Bonnie Skinner. Bonnie is the CEO of Sheep Producers Australia (SPA), a levy board that advocates for a better future for Australia’s sheep industry. They do this in a multitude of ways: connecting farmers, consumers and government bodies. They advocate for better outcomes for farmers and direct levy investments towards research, development and industry services.In this episode, Bonnie and Mark discuss the current challenges faced by the industry - be it artificial proteins, climate change or getting new entrants into the industry - and also what the future holds for lamb and wool producers. It’s not all doom and gloom, explains Bonnie: “In terms of providing that light on the hill, there is an immense opportunity for lamb as a protein, if we can continue to meet the needs of our consumers.” “Of course, we are already world-renowned for a high-quality, very consistent product in the industry. We know we can continue to improve on that. But what is the customer willing to pay for? How much room is there to really drive that price up, particularly at a retail level?” These are the questions that SPA are asking, and working towards answering, with industry support. Another issue faced by the industry is the uptake of new technologies and practices. One example being scanning for multiples. Despite the evidence that it will improve profitability and production on-farm, only 42% of Australian producers scan their ewes and, of these, 69% scan for dry, single and multiple foetuses.“We've got 10-15% of producers at the top, the early adopters. They are taking up all of these opportunities,” explains Bonnie. “Then we have a good subset of producers underneath that, who are interested [but are not taking the next steps towards adoption]. How do we encourage producers to take up these practices?”In this podcast, Bonnie explains the scope of SPA’s work for the industry: from identifying required research, right through to farmer implementation, and everything in between.Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Maximising your pasture potential with Darren Gordon
Mar 24 2024
Maximising your pasture potential with Darren Gordon
Send us a Text Message.With greater unpredictability in our weather patterns, managing pastures is an ever-evolving challenge for farmers. This week on the podcast we hope to help with some handy advice from consultant, Darren Gordon.This week we cover:The importance of pasture and feed-quality testingThe genetics of fat and feed efficiency Maximising profit from pastureDarren emphasises the importance of testing your pastures and feed, including the neutral detergent fibre (NDF). “Just test it, otherwise it's calculated guesswork,” he says. “Test, then test again. And the NDF, especially in your hays, can change intake, especially for younger sheep.” Knowing the NDF of your feed is vital, as it directly correlates with the digestibility and nutritional value of the feed. Too much NDF can impede digestibility. This leads to reduced feed intake, meaning no matter how good it is, your stock cannot consume enough of it to get the nutrients they need.Once you know where your feed is at you can allocate it to the most appropriate stock class, where it will make the greatest impact. Darren runs us through different feed type examples and which stock class would benefit most. For example, feeding your lighter twin-bearing ewes in late pregnancy yields some of the greatest returns.Darren also discusses containment feeding and the benefits to your stock as well as your pastures and soils. If you expect that you may need to contain stock, he emphasises the importance of planning ahead, rather than deciding to do it once your paddocks are already “ruined”.“Start thinking about it now, make some preparations, look at your water quality, look at your water quantity and what you're gonna need to do if you do have to go into containment,” he explains. “Once it gets under a thousand [FOO], you're only getting two and a half to three ME out of the paddock,” meaning you get immediate returns from containment feeding.Darren then turns the tables and asks Ferg a few questions about how genetics can also help with managing feed deficits on-farm. You’ll have to tune in for that answer! Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Flexolt®, Innovative Sheep Lice Management with MSD Animal Health
Mar 17 2024
Flexolt®, Innovative Sheep Lice Management with MSD Animal Health
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast, we’re talking about Flexolt®, a revolutionary new oral treatment for lice control in sheep.Our guests are Dr Jane Morrison and Dr Hamish Pike from our fantastic sponsors, MSD Animal Health.Flexolt is the first-ever oral lice treatment for sheep, giving you the ultimate flexibility when it comes to treating your flock. It can be used rain or shine, with any length of wool, revolutionising how and when you can administer a sheep lice treatment.Flexolt marks a significant leap forward in sheep lice treatment, offering farmers unparalleled flexibility and effectiveness in managing lice outbreaks. In the podcast, Jane and Hamish discuss how it works and how to get the best results from this great new product. Hamish and Jane also run us through the life cycle of lice, giving you a better understanding of what you’re treating and why clean musters and quarantine are so important.Tune in to learn more about how this new product works, and also to gain a deeper understanding of the biology, and impact, of lice in your sheep. Flexolt is currently available through rural retailers in Australia and is expected to be available in New Zealand from April 2023 at your local vet clinic.For more information on Flexolt, visit www.flexolt.co.nz.ACVM No: A011971. Ph: 0800 800 543. www.msd-animal-health.co.nzAPVMA No.: 91565/132669. Ph: 1800 226 551. www.coopersanimalhealth.com.au© 2024 Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ, USA and its affiliates. All rights reserved.Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Breeding Values and Objectives Explained with Dr Jamie Courter
Mar 10 2024
Breeding Values and Objectives Explained with Dr Jamie Courter
Send us a Text Message.What are breeding values? And why do you need a breeding objective? Our guest this week, Dr Jamie Courter, Mizzou Beef Genetics Extension Specialist, explains why they are so important for reaching our breeding goals. Do you have a breeding objective? This is the first question Jamie asks every producer. “I don't care what your breeding objective is if it makes sense for you,” says Jamie, “I just hope that you have one.” With no farm being the same as another, a breeding objective needs to be personalised to the goals of each individual business.But why are they so important? “That's how we can be profitable. We have to identify an end goal and we have to keep making consistent selection decisions that get us towards that goal. You won't see the impact of this year's bull decisions until five years down the road. If we don't have that objective in mind, we're just shooting in the dark. We're not heading towards that steady upward trajectory of the traits that really matter,” explains Jamie.So, once you know where you want to be, how do you get there? Breeding values, be it an ASBV, EBV or EPD are the best tool we have to reach that goal. Jamie does a great job of explaining how breeding values work and why results can vary. “I always ask producers, do you have siblings? Do you act the same, do you look the same? Light bulbs come on kind of at that point,” she shares. “In the beef cattle industry, we put pens of full sibling bulls together. It's a great way to get genetic uniformity, but it's not identical, right? They're as similar as they can be, but they're never identical.”Keeping in mind that there are always outliers is useful. “If we have a hundred full siblings, then we would expect the average performance of those hundred calves to be the parent average, right? Most of the calf crop will have a weight right around what we expect, but we're going to have outliers on either side,” says Jamie. “It's just a result of the shuffling of the DNA. A lot of times people expect it to be perfect and unfortunately with statistics, there's always outliers one way or the other.”Jamie points out, “We can get a good picture of the true genetic merit of those animals and which pieces of DNA they inherited from their sire or their dam. It's 50% both times, but there are 30 pairs of chromosomes and there are however many million base pairs that could have been inherited. And so we're able to get at the true genetic difference that those animals have, with genetics.”Read more here:https://blog.steakgenomics.org/Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
From Farm to Fashion with Iris and Wool
Mar 3 2024
From Farm to Fashion with Iris and Wool
Send us a Text Message.Tune in to our latest podcast episode as Emily Riggs, the founder and creative force behind Iris and Wool, shares her inspiring journey. Emily and her husband live on a sheep property outside of Burra, South Australia. “I fell in love with my farmer and also fell in love with wool,” explains Emily. “I don't actually work hands-on on the farm. So, I thought, how can I contribute to the industry?” Out of this, Iris and Wool was born, offering 100% certified Australian Merino wool knitwear, Merino denim, and accessories.But why fashion and clothing? “I think I've always had a love for fashion. When I was a little girl, I was actually diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is a cancer of the lymph nodes. I knew that I was going to lose my hair,” Emily explains. “I was often mistaken for a boy. And that really shattered my confidence. It was then that I really turned to fashion. It was a way for me to express my creativity and for people to actually look beyond my illness.”Iris and Wool started as an online fashion brand, with their family home as their ‘warehouse’. They have since expanded into a brick-and-mortar store in Burra, meaning their home has gone back to being a home and their customers can now try on the clothes before buying. For every sale at Iris and Wool, $1 goes to the Childhood Cancer Association and knitted beanies are donated to recently diagnosed children in South Australia.Emily’s story is a heart-warming example of how, with “...a lot of hustling”, you can turn your dreams into a reality. #IrisAndWool #FashionWithHeart #MerinoWool #PodcastHead Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Setting Up for Shearing Success with Darren Spencer
Feb 25 2024
Setting Up for Shearing Success with Darren Spencer
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast, Darren Spencer, President of the Western Australian Shearing Industry Association (WASIA), discusses some of the key issues faced by the wool industry, as well as how wool producers and the shearing industry can work together more effectively in the future.First up, Darren runs us through what WASIA has done to address the much talked about “shearers’ shortage”. In the wake of COVID, it was obvious to WASIA that there were not enough new entrants coming into the Australian shearing industry, “So, that meant we had to actually do some training,” he explains. “Through AWI, there was a lot more emphasis put on training new entrants and novices. For the first time ever, you could see guys go to a shearing school, learn how to shear, shearing 50 or 60 a day and they could jump on a stand because the stands were empty.” Darren says they now have enough shearers in WA and the emphasis has shifted to upskilling them. WASIA have noticed a shortage in shed staff, so that is their new focus.The next question, if we have enough shearers, is how do we retain them in the industry?WASIA and AWI have developed the “Safe Sheds - The Shearing Shed Safety Program”. The aim is to help improve safety and efficiency in the shearing shed. The program assists woolgrowers to identify what needs to be fixed and provides a process to follow. “We developed the program and also developed an app with it. The program is set up with four parts. You have an induction, a pre-shearing, a post-shearing and a main full inspection program,” explains Darren.“That was set up so that we could go to a shed, preferably well before shearing, and run through the program with the farmer and leave him with a list or whatever that needed to be fixed and we could discuss with him the priorities about what needed to happen first,” says Darren. Follow the link below to find this great resource: https://www.wool.com/globalassets/wool/people/shearing-sheds-and-sheep-yard-design/shearing-shed-assessment-manual.pdf.Shearing is an incredibly demanding task and Darren emphasises how important it is for farmers to keep thinking about how they can make the job easier for shearers. There are recent innovations in shearing shed design, such as race delivery systems, that can improve productivity, as well as reduce physical strain on shearers.Thanks to our sponsors, Heiniger, for setting up this interview. Darren has great insight into the core issues within the shearing industry and we think this episode is a must-listen for all woolgrowers! Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Farm Efficiency and Strategic Business Planning With David Cornish
Feb 18 2024
Farm Efficiency and Strategic Business Planning With David Cornish
Send us a Text Message.The agricultural trading sector faces challenges with volatile prices and increased government regulations. Our guest this week, David Cornish, explains how strategic planning is crucial to position your business to successfully navigate these issues. In the current environment, “We've seen businesses that were quite profitable or quite sustainable, even 12 months ago, now making a loss,” explains David. With high inflation, high-interest rates, potentially low capital appreciation and low commodity prices, David points out that it doesn’t make sense right now to purchase more land. Instead, investing within your boundary fence, rather than expanding it, is a better plan. David encourages business owners to take a hard look at where that on-farm investment is made. “Often what we have is that our costs have to increase, to increase our income. Here's our opportunity to go, no, we're not gonna let that happen. We're gonna have a look at everything that we spend our dollars on and say, can we do that better or do we need to do that?” David admits that thinking about strategy doesn't seem like an appealing task for anyone when there are plenty of other things to do on the farm. But he suggests that spending the time to identify those small 1% changes, that result in a thriving and resilient business, is worth it. “When we look at those incremental performances, and you listen to leading teams, one of the things they often talk about is this concept of ‘It's the one percenters that give you the big return’,” he explains. “It's those one or two percenters that add up to the 20 percenters that makes it worthwhile. And, for most of us, we are in a commodity industry, so let's manage what we can manage and control what we control.”David and Ferg discuss how to decide what those small incremental improvements can be. It can be difficult to know what to cut out of a farming business when it is so complex. Is it saving money by buying fewer rams this year or reducing fertiliser? Is it spending money to save you time by putting in laneways? You’ll have to tune in to hear David's advice there! Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
Farmers vs Tech with Dr Penny Schulz.
Feb 11 2024
Farmers vs Tech with Dr Penny Schulz.
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast, we’re discussing technology adoption and genetics with Dr Penny Schulz.Penny farms in the Limestone Coast region of South Australia (SA) with her husband Jason. She is a livestock technical specialist at the SA Drought Hub, as well as holding several other advisory positions. “My role here with The (SA Drought) Hub is very much focused on farmer adoption,” Penny explains. “I do a lot of farmer-facing workshop work or developing new projects. So a lot of it might be about filling seasonal feed gaps or it could be around business. We've got things to do with service providers as well. But also outside of that, I do a bit of mentoring and coaching with young people and rural women's networks as well.”Mark and Penny discuss the adoption of electronic identification (EID) technology by farmers. She explains that it's not necessarily farmer reluctance slowing down the uptake of new technologies. Rather, the existing technology infrastructure doesn't fully support farmers in leveraging the data that they collect. “We always cop it as farmers. They think that we're just not digitally savvy enough and that farmers need to get digital literacy training. And I say, ‘No, they don't’,” explains Penny. “I think their digital technology needs to catch up with everything else.”“Farmers are fine using iPhones and laptops to get by with other parts of their life. And then when it comes to technology, whether it's physical tech or software to do with their sheep enterprise, it's clunky and it's not intuitive. And it doesn't talk to things sometimes and it does others. And we've just come to accept that that's what happens - even though it costs us $30,000 to set it up.”Yet Mark and Penny both remain optimistic. With the recent advances in artificial intelligence, innovation in the ag sector continues to evolve. Penny points out that identifying the problem - and finding the right technology to solve it - is the key to successful technology adoption in agriculture, not the other way around. Mark and Penny also discuss the genetics used on her family farm. Penny gained a passion for genetics when showing dairy cattle, so it is no wonder she now uses breeding values for her livestock. “In farming, there's so much you can't control. So you try and look for the information where you can get it,” she explains. “And when it comes to breeding animals, the breeding values that we have in the system, that's the information we do know. And we use it quite heavily.”This episode is a great discussion about how data-driven strategies and technology (and genetics, of course!) are charting the course toward a more robust and productive future in agriculture. Find out more about the SA Drought Hub by following the link below.https://sadroughthub.com.au/about/Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE
The Science of Breeding Livestock with Dr Wendy Rauw
Feb 4 2024
The Science of Breeding Livestock with Dr Wendy Rauw
Send us a Text Message.Are you passionate about breeding robust and resilient animals? If so, this is the podcast for you.Our guest this week is Dr Wendy Rauw, a renowned expert in animal genetics and breeding. Wendy's career has taken her to various corners of the world, working with a diverse range of species, from sheep and cattle to chickens and even fish. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table.In this episode, Wendy and Mark explore topics ranging from 'genotype by environment  (GxE) interaction' to the significance of prioritising robustness and resilience in breeding strategies, especially in our ever-changing climate. Wendy also tackles the challenges of integrating welfare and production traits into breeding objectives, emphasising the importance of striking a balance in various production systems.If you're intrigued by the art and science of breeding animals for a sustainable and resilient future, this podcast is a must-listen!Head Shepherd is brought to you by neXtgen Agri International Limited, we help livestock farmers get the most out of the genetics they farm with. Get in touch with us if you would like to hear more about how we can help you do what you do best - info@nextgenagri.com.Thanks to our sponsors at MSD Animal Health and Allflex, and Heiniger Australia and New Zealand.These companies are leaders in their respective fields and it is a privilege to have them supporting the Head Shepherd Podcast. Please consider them when making product choices, as they are instrumental in enabling us to bring you this podcast each week.Check out Heiniger's product range HERECheck out the MSD range HERECheck out Allflex products HERE