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Shepherd Farm Software

The Shepherd program was recently upgraded to provide for electronic ear-tagging. The program is now fully integrated with the electronic ID Reader – APR-500. Information such as mating’s, pregnancies, lambing’s, weights, wool data and health related data, can now be automatically imported from a Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) into Shepherd software. RFID ear-tags can be linked via the APR 500 directly to Shepherd (image below).

This upgrade was made possible by funding from the Association of Woolled Sheep Performance Breeders and is to the advantage of all woolled sheep breeders. It is trusted that this improvement will impact on the accuracy of on-farm data. Upgrading of the program will continue to not only increase its functionality but also to improve on the user-friendliness of the program. Mr. Arno van Graan explained the functionality of the program at the annual farmer’s day of the ARC’s Fleece Testing Centre to demonstrate Shepherd’s new features. An abbreviated version of Mr van Graan’s lecture is presented below.

Background information
Everyone knows the old animal and ewe cards that were used over many years to record the breeding history of an animal and its parents. With the advent of computers, these records were logically computerized. Several programs were developed, of which “Studmaster” was most successful in the case of small stock. “Studmaster” operated in the old DOS environment but after introduction of Windows the Association of Woolled Sheep Breeders tasked the Agricultural Research Council to develop a program in line with the then newest computer technology. The initial development of Shepherd was completed in 2003 and thereafter upgraded as necessary.

Logical functioning of the program
Shepherd’s main screen is divided into two sections. On the left-hand side is the list of MAIN SECTIONS. Below each main section, on the right-hand side, are SUB-SECTIONS for specific functions. The main options are as follows:

Under this section the stud name and address can be recorded, language chosen, constants specified, animal cards created, search group requirements specified, temporary indices calculated, temporary marks and files backed up.

Under this section family codes can be specified, birth seasons, where animal is, remarks, management groups, addresses and linear scores defined. In this section are various values and fields that the user can define.

This section has all information regarding each individual animal. Data is captured and viewed under animal data including growth traits, fibre traits, carcass traits, parasite traits, animal remarks, linear scores, animal sales and animal summary.

In this section animals are firstly mated, then scanned for pregnancy and births registered, pedigrees drawn, ewe data and animal cards viewed. With these options one can really start to integrate an animal’s own information as well as that of its parents and progeny on one screen.

With this option data is sent electronically to and from different service providers and breed societies.

In this section forms can be printed to be filled in to capture mating, scanning, birth registration, weighing, fleece testing (fibre) in the kraal. Custom card reports may also be generated and transferred to spreadsheets for further processing, printing etc.

Mutton breeds may capture the following body weights:
Birth weight; Pre-weaning weight; Weaning weight; Post-weaning weight; Mature body weight

Woolled/fibre breeds may capture the following:

All body weights indicated for mutton breeds and additionally fleece weights and measurements at three different shearings.

Data collected on farm are sent to the different service providers, who perform analysis and calculations and then send the processed data back. Estimated breeding values (EBV’s) are also received by breeders in this manner. Shepherd also provides for data communication between the breeder and Breed Societies.

Written remarks may be recorded. In this section, pre-defined remarks may be made against individual animals. General remarks include abnormalities, cull faults, etc. These remarks can be used in animal summaries to determine whether specific rams are breeding faults.

The program itself does very few calculations. Most of the calculations are done by service providers and transferred to the system. These values cannot be changed to provide the necessary credibility to the system. The exception is the calculation of temporary indices.

To backup data is a basic requirement to any software, including Shepherd. On receiving Shepherd for the first time, the data base is empty. The effect of frequent mistakes may be minimized by making regular backups for future reference.

Several pre-defined printable reports are available. Custom reports may however be created by the user for printing etc.

The program has the capacity to summarise the data for each animal and its progeny (see two examples below).
1. Data for one trait summarised for different sires per season and/sex (located at Animal/Animal Summary/Multiple Sires per Season)

The graph below indicates averages for each ram’s progeny per season and/or sex. Different traits and seasons may be selected to provide a comprehensive evaluation of performance of progeny of each ram.

ONE RAM and SEVERAL TRAITS (located at Animal/Animal Summary/Specific Single Sire)

2. This option is used to determine how a ram has bred regarding to non-numerical traits such as cull faults. The “PIE” graph must be selected from the list of options. Pie charts off course indicate proportional (percentages) to ease interpretation.

RAM PER SEASON REPORT (located at Animal/Animal Summary/Ram per Season)

A summary of reproduction of rams mated in any specific season. This option is only available if a mating was captured.

This table is a summary of the reproduction performance of ewes mated to a specific ram per specific season.

SUMMARY OF ANIMALS (Located at START FORM is a summary of different traits and other data of an animal)

An individual animal or group of animals may be selected with the search function.
Different groups of data are available which can be selected. By clicking on any animal in the pedigree, its information is extracted.

  • General – General information on an animal, sold to whom, etc.
  • Meat – Mainly growth traits with breeding values and selection indices that combine traits in an overall economic value.
  • Linear Score – linear scores recorded, can be viewed here.
  • Progeny – Lists the progeny of an animal according to the animal card options selected.
  • Remarks – View the remarks made for each animal.
  • Fibre – Wool or fibre traits of each animal, including breeding values and selection indices.
  • Ewe Reproduction – A summary of a ewe’s reproduction if she has lambed, and the data has been processed and imported from the service provider.

ANIMAL CARDS (Located at Breeding/View Animal Cards)
Animal cards are used to view all recorded values of a ewe/ram and her/his progeny. These records are valuable to make decisions to retain ewes for breeding or not. In the top split screen the animal plus its parents are displayed. The user can display various traits as previous defined by him (Setup/ Animal Cards). In the second split screen the progeny of the animal is available. The user can use a different set of traits as defined under Animal Cards

All information regarding the animal is displayed as well as its sire or dam’s information. The information displayed, depends on the animal card selected. The sub section includes each animal’s progeny information. Same as for the animal itself, different cards can be selected to view different types of information of the progeny. The third section is the summary of the number of progeny, total and average for each of the headings.

All information on the animal itself and its progeny is available on this screen. This section refers to the animal itself. Again, the data viewed depends on the selection of predefined Animal cards.
In the progeny section, numbers and data are shown. The information displayed, again depends on the selection of cards.

By clicking on any animal in the pedigree its own data and that of its progeny are shown. This is helpful when you are deciding on which rams to select as sires for the next mating season. Performance of each ram’s parents, grandparents, etc. all aid to make informed decisions.

In conclusion, Shepherd directs the breeder to keep accurate records of his animals. Therefore, a standard numerical identification system is mandatory. The value adding effect of accurate data is invaluable. By using Shepherd, records can easily be transferred to service providers and Breed Societies. Updated and calculated results such as EBV’s, indices and ewe production records can also easily be imported. The accuracy of data capture and timeous submittance thereof, is crucial to the value of the system for Dohne Merino users. Ultimately, the disciplined use of the system is basic to the competitiveness of Dohne Merino farming both in South Africa and internationally. The competency by which Shepherd is used, invariably leads to increased levels of productivity of woolled sheep flocks as well as efficient genetic improvement. The challenge is to interpret and use the accurate information supplied by Shepherd, efficiently.

2 thoughts on “Shepherd Farm Software

  1. From where can I purchase Shepherd software ?

    1. Nikhil,
      Shepherd software is available at Grootfontein College of Agriculture, Middelburg Eastern Cape. Please google for contact details

      Dohne greetings
      Dr Kobus Delport

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