However, managing the information that accompanies a flock of 700
requires intensive physical labour and organization. "It's
a big challenge managing our inventory. Each ewe lambs every eight
months. The ewes are sorted into groups that drop at different times
throughout the year so we can supply the packer with Ontario lamb
every two weeks," says Vince.
So when he heard about the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food
and Rural Affairs' (OMAFRA) Food Safety Initiative Traceability
Grant Program he embraced the opportunity to automate some aspects
of their operation and streamline the collection of information
required for traceability. Traceability is a system designed to
help agricultural businesses collect, retain and share information
about raw materials, production and finished products.
The Stutzkis explored various types of equipment and software
programs to determine which would meet their needs now and in
the future and would help streamline their labour and information
They selected a mechanical handling system to sort and weigh
each lamb at weaning and when required thereafter. They also purchased
a radio frequency identification (RFID) handheld reader. Both
systems scan the animals' RFID ear tag and obtain information,
which can then be entered into their new computer and software
program, which coordinates, sorts and retains all the record keeping
The Stutzkis say, "Becoming involved with the Traceability
Grant Program has improved our operation not only in terms of
reducing physical labour, but also by providing easier access
to important information that affects our decision making."
The traceability system allows them to meet buyer demands effectively
and efficiently by knowing exactly how many lambs are ready for
shipping at any given time. Vince adds that being able to sort
the animals electronically using RFID tags has saved them countless
hours in physical handling and improved the efficiency of the
The new animal handling system has increased safety and reduced
the stress, time and labour associated with working with the sheep
and lambs. This has in turn allowed the Stutzki's four children
to become more involved in the sheep operation.
In addition, Vince wants to use the system for genetics and breeding
purposes. He is working with his packer to receive in return detailed
information on each carcass slaughtered at the abattoir. This
will provide needed additional information for his management
decisions surrounding feeding and breeding.
"It's much easier to plan and make decisions around each
group of ewes now that we have the new traceability system in
place" he notes.
Vince believes that Canadian farmers should be providing more
lamb to Canadian buyers. "Current consumption of lamb in
this country is only 50 per cent Canadian," he states. He
sees a big market here for home-grown sheep and lambs and with
the efficiency gained by using the new system, he believes it's
"It's all about labour," he says. "If we are going
to provide more lamb to Canadian consumers we will need larger
flocks. To manage them, we must become more efficient about how
we collect our data and use our information."
Vince sees a bright future for Canadian sheep farmers by integrating
traceability into their day to day business.
Traceability brings benefits:
By implementing a traceability system, ElmCrest Farms: