Monday, September 2, 2013

Lambing Kicks Off

Another good Waione mother
1st September, right on the button.
This year I'm starting using RFID tags on the lambs, working on the principle that jumping in's the way to useful incorporation and new systems will evolve therefrom.
I did envisage entering lambing data directly into a dash mounted TruTest XR3000, but found it just too hard to leave my pocket notebook.
I've had experience in the past..., several seasons with a Psion Workabout, great in the paddock, but the major problem was during the interface with and upload to the desktop PC, you never knew what was matching the receiving file, or not, and there's also the ever present danger you could lose data before upload or backup, which was the final straw for me.
Not the same problem with the pocket book, provided you're careful in the rain, and keep it away from the missus and the washing machine, plus when you do a manual upload to the PC, you have the opportunity to spot anomalies, make corrections, or notes for check back in the paddock on tag numbers next tagging round.
The best electronic solution I can see is the latest model Psion Workabout Pro3, which can run Excel, take it to the paddock loaded with an SIL upload compatible animal data file, and input the lambing data direct, save to onboard backup, and file swap back and forth to PC when you get home.
Problem is, with an RFID reader, those babies run about $3000.
I've tried a 7" tablet, but just too big to be practical, and input too slow and cumbersome.
I thought maybe a Galaxy Note 2 might be able to do it, 5.3" screen, I think it probably could but for Samsung's proprietary interface software prohibiting simple USB hookup to PC. I've looked for solutions to this on Google, none of which work. Why on earth manufacturing companies think consumers are going to be happy using internet based Dropbox, SkyDrive or their own stifling proprietary sync systems is beyond me, whats wrong with Androids simple plugging in the USB and seeing the phone as Drive:E?
Absolutely nothing if you're in a poor reception area, where cloud based computing's dodgy, if available at all.
Actually, I have got the Note II communicating through MTP and can copy Excel files seamlessly back and forth to QuickOffice on the phone. Will experiment the season's calving with this, smaller numbers to parallel track manually
The Psion would work nice on the shearing board, read tags, and follow the fleece to the scales, maybe even get the weight returned via bluetooth, but with a read range under 3" you'd be losing the use of one hand feeding the sheep through a live-weight weigher. I see some UK liveweight systems with the Psion mounted beside a panel reader, but now you're talking another $2500 at least for one of them, and the complication of another bit of obsolescing electronics.
If all the RFID tags are going to achieve is making live-weight taking easier, I'm not so sure the investment is worth it. It might be better to keep the money in the bank, and make your weigh-day easier by getting a casual assistant in for a few hours work.
More on this as time goes.
Meanwhile, back in the lambing paddock, focus as usual on survival, already pretty good at under 8% of total lambs born, but I want to get it better than that.
I've found a high relationship between lamb deaths and lower FE index, the simple solution being to quit ewes that lose lambs.