Leigh Drum – “Avonlea”, Junee Reefs, NSW


Leigh and Kathy Drum run a mixed farming property, consisting primarily of a self-replacing merino flock, at Junee Reefs, NSW. The Drum’s manage 2,300 breeding ewes over the 770ha farm, with a portion of ewes joined to terminal sires.

Leigh has recently began using eID technology, tagging the 2022 drop lambs, with electronic ear tags at marking, allowing for early breech wrinkle scores to be collected at this time. Since then, Leigh has tagged all 800 of his older ewes from the 2019 drop to current.

Since the adoption of eID tags, Leigh has been able to capture valuable data to allow for improved decision making in the future.

“As we haven’t had eID’s for long we haven’t recorded much yet. We did record the early breech wrinkle scores on the 2022 drop to benchmark our position. We have also recorded the wet/dry status of the ewes at weaning, which we may not use until later as we are still building our flock numbers back up.”

“This year (2023) we hope to collect a fleece weight and micron data, as well as capture pregnancy scanning information.”

Leigh has a simple but effective breeding objective to reduce/maintain a flock average of 18.5 micron wool, with the long term goal of producing 40kg of clean wool per hectare. Leigh is also interested in breeding a plainer bodied sheep as part of his forward plan to prepare for managing a non-mulesed flock.

“I want to be able to have the choice to stop mulesing, so then we are more prepared for when the industry says we need to stop.”

What are the benefits of adopting eID technology on your farm? And how have you navigated Ag Tech?

“We can identify which sheep are performing well and can rank them. This will give us a better exit plan in tough years, such as droughts, to make it easier to choose which animals are not performing and we can sell them first.”

Leigh understands that collecting data and using it in a timely manner can help with making more informed selection decisions which can lead to a faster rate of improvement within his flock.

“Ag tech doesn’t scare me – I figure we need to embrace the Ag Tech and it is becoming easier to use and navigate over time.”

“We have been interested in using it for a few years now but didn’t think it would be an economical advantage as we had fewer sheep than we do now, but through your (SheepMetriX) workshops it has enabled me with the confidence that it (eID Tech) can be beneficial and profitable.”

Leigh has been interested in implementing eID on his farm for some time and has recently attended various workshops and researched the different technologies available.

“With eID becoming mandatory anyway we thought we may as well get onto it early and start using it.”

How are you using the technology to assist with making more informed decisions?

“You don’t have to go all in and buy a whole heap of gear at the start, which is what I thought I would have to do. You can take baby steps and see what will benefit your production system, how it will be implemented and used to improve your business.”

Leigh is currently using a weigh crate and stick reader to record the data. Through further investigation and discussions with other producers Leigh has decided to purchase an indicator to assist with data recording and a sheep handler to improve efficiency. Leigh has witnessed the benefits of being able to record information while also performing husbandry practises while the animal is in a handler to be weighed.

While Leigh hasn’t collected a large amount of data to date, the information regarding the early breech wrinkle scoring has allowed them to benchmark their flocks current position. This will allow Leigh to track his flock’s progress over years to ensure they are moving in the right direction for his breeding objective. Collecting data, such as the wet/dry status of ewes, gives Leigh the confidence to cull any low performing ewes which can be identified as not rearing lambs and therefore aren’t as profitable. Leigh understands that eID technology can be a valuable resource to help with making more informed decisions regarding which ewes to retain within the flock to improve production. Furthermore, by recording the individual body weights of his younger animals, Leigh can monitor their growth rates and make any necessary management adjustments. Finally, since incorporating this basic use of eID technology, Leigh has been able to identify fluctuations in body weight associated with health issues.

“Last year (2022) the animals weren’t where we thought they should be and it turned out they had a worm burden, so we were able to treat them.”

Have you made any changes to your management practises?

“We haven’t made any big changes to how we operate yet … but if I purchase an auto drafter, I will be more likely to box mobs together into larger groups to improve the grazing efficiency in my large paddocks and be able to sort/draft my mobs efficiently afterwards with the eID technology.”

Has the use of the technology allowed you to achieve your production goals?

“In the long term I think it certainly can help! Collecting the right data and implementing it for decision making can help if it’s used in the right way.”

The use of eID technology has allowed Leigh to begin collecting data which is beneficial to their production system. The data collected to date has allowed him to benchmark the distribution of the early breech wrinkle scores taken on his 2022 drop lambs, which will allow him to monitor the changes in his flock over years and make valuable ram purchasing decisions to help him achieve his breeding objective.

Take Home Messages

  1. Starting your eID journey doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase the latest eID technology. Instead spend the time to work out what information you want to collect and then purchase the equipment that will help you do this.
  2. Re-establish your breeding objective to help determine what data you need to collect.
  3. Collect data that you will use, and that will help you make informed decisions.