State-of-the-art at Scaddan

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

A new state-of-the-art wool shed is producing exceptional results for Scaddan-based Wattle Dale stud.

Last year was an exciting one for David and Katherine Vandenberghes' 5670ha pure Merino operation, which was highlighted by its first year of shearing in their new ultra-modern facility packed with the latest technology.

The Vandenberghes' stud boasts some outstanding Australian Sheep Breeding Values, with some figures in the top 1 per cent of Australia. The stud continues to achieve good results from the Nerstane family line from NSW.

The stud has also enjoyed a successful and complete changeover to electronic tagging this year, as well as reporting a good success rate with the first batch of Centre Plus Poll Artificial Inseminated prodigy.

Principal David Vandenberghe said they were keen to embrace new technology.

"We thought if we were going to start with a new shed we would also invest in the latest shearing pens and shearing heads," he said

"The shearing heads also include new safety features, so the idea was to get all the latest technology in one go.

"The original idea was just to renovate the old shed but after speaking to the contractor, we changed our mind and invested in a new shed.

"But we needed extra space to house our air seeder so we went another two-and-half metres higher and three metres wider.

"The internal fit-out took about eight weeks with all of us helping the contractor and now we can house the seeder in the shed without having to unhook it from the tractor."

Like many other Esperance farmers, Mr Vandenberghe said they were keen to invest in the latest technology.

"The new shed is fitted with an auto-draughter panel reader, with weigh readout, which is also connected to a personal computer," he said.

"The new system also included a stick reader, which allowed the sheep to be scanned in the yards.

"A barcode scanner and printer allow us to print a barcode from the sheep which will transfer to the computer, which is what we use for the fleece weighing.

"The auto draughter also allows you to record any sheep traits, for example, fleece, weight, lambing and sire.

"When the classer comes this year, I will split off sheep at a particular level and we will consider them for size. If they are below a certain level, we don't even have to consider them, which means it saves us time doing sheep assessment work."

Mr Vandenberghe said the stud was now in its third year of DNA testing its entire sheep, which along with the new shed, would improve overall productivity of the farm.

He said by indexing ewes with ASBVs, the stud has noticed a rapid improvement in the flock with production figures also continuing to improve, with ewes achieving 8kg of wool a head at 18.5 micron.

"Testing is not a necessary thing but it allows you take information to the next level," he said.

"Currently, it costs us about $14,000 a year for all of our sheep.

"This is the first year we've picked up some other traits and prior to that it has just been size," he said.

"As we go further into it, we will further expand our categories and I do believe that will make a difference to the value you get back on doing testing.

"The DNA testing assists us internally because I can easily tell which sheep are performing, which allows us to place emphasis on rams that are stacking up to be good sires."

Mr Vandenberghe said the testing proved most effective when selling livestock.

"When you have a buyer going to a sale and they're after 10 rams, they can come with a checklist of traits required and a purchasing choice can be made without assessing the ram," he said.

"That has got to be time saving and helpful for the breeder and if it means the buyer goes home with the rams they had been seeking. It means that everybody is a winner."

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