Technology that can save you money

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 What is SheepBytes?
The Alberta Lamb Traceability Project (LTP) data confirmed again that feed is the greatest cost in producing a market lamb. With anywhere from 40 to 70% of total costs in feed there are opportunities for improvement.

SheepBytes ration balancer is a web-based software program is a tool being used by today's flock managers, lamb feeders, nutritionists and veterinarians. SheepBytes was developed by industry nutritionists using the latest nutritional data to meet the needs of today's productive flocks. SheepBytes can assist flock managers and their advisors fine-tune flock feeding: to provide optimal nutrition for every group of sheep in every stage of production; to support improved flock productivity; to reduce feed waste; and to help manage feed costs.

What can SheepBytes do?
Using SheepBytes you can formulate rations for different animal types: mature ewes and rams, replacement ewe lambs and ram lambs, early weaned lambs, growing lambs and finishing lambs.

Rations use data from the Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants (NRC 2007). That means you can now build rations suited to larger ewes, more productive ewes, and more rapidly growing lambs.

SheepBytes also allows you to take into consideration various environmental conditions, different animal body weights, and different body condition scores. The program balances rations for all major nutrients and key micronutrients. You can add in water test results when needed. SheepBytes will alert you to nutritional deficiencies that can compromise milk production, lamb growth, fertility, and lamb survival. It also provides alerts when feed ingredients or excess feed is costing you money.

Handy colour codes provide quick information: "green" means all is well; "orange" means proceed with caution; "red" means stop and take a closer look. With the degree of accuracy provided it can be difficult to have absolutely no red show up in a ration. Red is a warning you just need to look to see if there might be a problem. You may need to contact a nutritionist for help with the ration. If it’s a cost warning, you need to look at other feed options. Be aware that feeding sheep is a combination of art and science. The 'art' is at least partly in the 'eye of the shepherd'. Flock managers need to carefully monitor feed, feed intake, waste and above all animal body condition.

The power of SheepBytes is evident when you look at flock profitability. Flock data in the LTP project showed top-performing flocks had average feed costs of $44 less per lamb marketed than the lowest performing flocks. With roughly 120,000 lambs processed in western facilities in 2014 it is easy to see how reducing feed cost could save producers millions of dollars annually.

How does SheepBytes work?
SheepBytes is not the old DOS version Alberta producers used in the 1980's and 1990’s. It isn’t a traditional software program that you install on your computer. SheepBytes uses modern web application frameworks. These web applications provide the flexibility of being able to work with what has become everyday technology - your cellular phone, tablet or laptop. SheepBytes enables you to access and work with your rations on any computer whether in your office, in the barn, at your vet’s or in the feed company office. The web application has been continuously improved and provides automatic updates every time you sign in. You never need download an update again. SheepBytes has been developed to meet the needs of your rapidly changing lamb business.

The science behind the software SheepBytes includes comprehensive feed libraries based on average nutrient analyses of many common, and not so common, feeds from both western and eastern Canada. Users also have the option of adding a custom library of the feeds grown or purchased for use on-farm. These SheepBytes feed library options provide multiple feed variables that enable you to balance rations to meet your own flock nutritional needs and your flock management. Individual feeds do vary significantly depending on: where they were grown; weather conditions during the growing season; and soil type. There is always a year-to-year variation in market price for different feeds. By adding in the costs of feeds, SheepBytes calculates the price per head automatically for every change you make in a ration or ingredients. Printable reports allow you to compare different rations. For future reference you can save the one you choose for a particular animal group in a particular year.

Rapid access to accurate information
Managing feed costs is one of the most important keys to flock returns. Being able to rapidly access accurate ration information, in the farm office, in the barn, or at the feed company allows producers to have greater control over flock feeding and feed costs. SheepBytes also allows users to easily share the information with nutritionists, veterinarians, and feed company consultants.

Specialized version for commercial users
The commercial subscription allows multiple users to interact with the data and with rations. That makes it ideal for use by feed companies, veterinary practitioners, academic institutions, any company with multiple locations and any consultant with multiple clients. It provides unlimited filing capacity so you can access a client’s ration in the future to figure out a feeding problem or to duplicate a good ration.

SheepBytes can do more than just balance a ration. It generates printable reports for:
• Batch mixes for grains or supplements or total mixed rations
• Feed wastage during feeding
• Combined feed inventory for select animal groups
• Nutrients from water that can influence nutrient Requirements

SheepBytes is the result of collaboration between sheep industry industry stakeholders to provide new information, technology and tools to Canadian lamb producers. It is provided on a cost break-even basis. A video tutorial have been developed for new subscribers getting started, for experienced subscribers using advanced features, and as a reference or 'refresher' for all SheepBytes users.

To find out more about SheepBytes go to:
  • 'Video Tutorial' is a step-by-step guide to getting started and using SheepBytes.
  • 'Demo' highlights what SheepBytes can do.
  • 'Key Features' and 'FAQ' answer questions.

To subscribe to SheepBytes simply click on 'Registration'.

Other Documents in the Series

  Precision Flock Management: An Introduction
Technology that can save you money - Current Document
Precision Flock Management Flock Snapshot
Cost of Production Raising Profitable Sheep
Precision Flock Management: Managed Grazing Forge Growth and Intensive Grazing Basics
Precision Flock Management: Managed Grazing When to Open and Close the Gate
Precision Flock Management: Managed Grazing Filling Feed Holes in the Feed Year
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This document is maintained by Amrit Matharu.
This information published to the web on December 13, 2013.