The EID stick reader (also known as a “wand” reader) is the simplest type of device for reading electronic sheep tags. You might have seen them in use at livestock markets and smaller abattoirs. They’re pretty handy for recording lists of sheep movements, especially as they give you a longer reach to scan the tags of sheep in the sheep race or pen.
Once you’ve started using a stick reader to help you with movement recording, you may soon find that you’d like to use EID to record some basic management information about your flock – for example, number of lambs born and lambing ease or scores for ewe condition, feet, udder or teeth.
Storing this data in electronic format means that you can use the power of your office PC to sift, sort and calculate – from basic things like quickly finding your lambing percentage to helping you answer questions like “which ewes should I cull this year?”.
Many farm software suppliers and advisers will tell you that a stick reader is only good for recording a simple list of tags and of no value for recording management information. You might be under the impression that you would need a bulky handheld computer, like the widely used (and expensive) Psion Workabout Pro for recording flock data? This is not the case.
I’d like to suggest a couple of ways that the stick reader could used successfully beyond creating simple lists of tag numbers..
Choose the right sheep EID stick reader – some are more equal than others
If you don’t want to initially use specialist farm software for recording flock data, there are some stick readers on the market that will perform basic management recording “standalone”. The Tru Test XRS stick reader enables you to record a small amount of custom data for each scanned tag. This custom data takes the form of a selection list of options that you define yourself. This is done via a very simple computer program that comes with the Tru Test reader. Just plug the reader into your PC (same as connecting a printer), then run the software and enter the list items or codes that you want to use (see images below).
Once you have been outside and finished your recording task, simply plug the stick reader into your office PC again and press a button to download the list. Each tag will have the custom data listed with it. The data can now be viewed and analysed using any spreadsheet program.
Use a Bluetooth stick reader with a modern mobile device and farm software
Android smartphones and tablets are everywhere – there’s a good chance someone on your farm will have one already. Why not put it to work for flock data recording and avoid the big cost of handheld computers like the bulkly and heavy Psion “Workabout Pro”?
Just choose a stick reader that’s equipped with wires-free Bluetooth data transfer and you can scan sheep tags and send the electronic numbers to your Android device. Your Android device acts like an electronic notepad and gives you pre-made entry forms that enable you to quickly details
of the task or event being carried out. The details of the task are recorded against the list of tags that you scan. It’s basically a simple three step process; here’s an example:
- On the Android device, open the required input screen, let’s say record a medicine treatment, and enter the detail i.e. medicine name, dose per animal, etc
- Scan the tags of the animals you are dosing
- When you get back home, one button click transfers the treatment records to your farm software. You can now produce medicine usage reports for Farm Assurance
You can record things like:
- recording movements – animal purchases and sales
- medicine treatments
- lambing records
- animal weights
- ewe condition scores
The next step is to transfer the information from your Android device to your farm software in the office, stores it and adds value to it in the form of legislative and management reports. The data transfer is done via your device Wi-Fi, so it’s quick and easy to do.
Does all this sound a bit difficult to you?
We beg to differ: in November 2014 Orchid trained a group of Welsh sheep farmers to use this form of mobile sheep data recording and most of them had used a smartphone before, let alone farm software! These farmers are all now successfully using their Android phones to record valuable flock data. This shows that with the right mindset and little bit of training, the benefits of EID sheep recording are there for the taking, helping you to reduce costs and increase the output of your sheep flock.