Shearing and Sheep Management


Last week we had the first field trial of the shearing and sheep management modules. We learned several things that are being incorporated into the LambTracker program now.

First, during shearing it was too much effort to use the checkboxes for notes about each sheep on the handheld computer. It slowed things down far too much. So by the second set of sheep to be shorn I had created a paper form with the checkboxes. We used the Print Labels function and set it to print 2 labels for each sheep scanned. I could attach one label to the shearing sheet, check off the boxes for that sheep and used the other label to go on the fleece bag.  This worked well. Data entry time back in the office was a bit longer than I wanted because I didn’t have a desktop data entry screen set but I am thinking that I can integrate a bar code scanner and use that to scan the printed label and bring up the sheep record along with a screen with checkboxes just like the paper sheet for data entry. That module is being designed and planned now.

Second, the workload during vaccinations and worming was also high. I do not yet have the group medication modules written on the desktop so the only way to add a medication record is to do it individually for each sheep. The LambTracker standard of click to enable the scanner, then scan a sheep, then click to look up a sheep, became cumbersome to use. However, if we set it to always do an automatic scan and lookup there is the risk that a second sheep will get scanned and the data entry screen change before you’ve saved the data for the previous sheep. I’m still struggling with what is the best way to handle that case. I like the multistep method as it prevents erroneous data or missing data but it is much slower. I’m considering a user option to set the mode but haven’t worked out how to do that yet.

Third, there is the concept of notes about a sheep. Notes are permanent records and I have a number of predefined notes that can be attached to a sheep record. Examples of notes include things like the date shorn, some data on fleece (sticky or nice) behavior notes, udder status etc. It became clear during this exercise that I needed to be able to attach several notes to a single note record for a sheep. So I made a change to the database to implement up to 5 predefined notes per sheep at one time. Now I am in the process of adding those note options to all places where I have a “Take Note” button.

The lambing module is undergoing bench testing now but we won’t get to test it with live sheep until later this month. One initial discovery. There needs to be a simple way to add a tag or other id to a lamb after you’ve already entered it. That’s probably going to be added to the Lookup Sheep module.

Data entry of historical data is also proceeding. I have 17 years of past data on our flock to enter. I have started developing blank LibreOffice spreadsheets that can be used to collect the data for the various sheep database tables. The procedure is I enter in the data onto the spreadsheet. Save the file as a CSV file. Then, using a CSV to SQL tool, I can create the insert or update statements for the database as required. Lastly, I go back into the free Firefox SQLite tool and copy and paste the SQL statements into the execute SQL window and run them. So far it’s working well.

My existing records are in a huge LibreOffice spreadsheet but I combined things in some cells that are in separate tables in the database so there is some parsing out of stuff to make it all work. That’s why the need for separate blank spreadsheets for each type of table entry. I have started putting a background color of green in my main spreadsheet for all cells where I have transferred the data to the LambTracker database. This makes it easy to see what is left to enter.

LambTracker is designed so that you do not have to enter in all the data in order but can start where you are and slowly enter in the back data. This method has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is obvious, no huge initial data entry task but one disadvantage is that you will need to go back and update or edit individual records. For example, when I enter in a sheep I do not require that there be a sire and dam listed. But once I do finally enter in the parents and grandparents of sheep I need to go back and make those linkages. It’s not hard but it is tedious. Which way a flock will choose to go depends a lot on how much back data they have and how much they eventually want in the LambTracker database. In my case we want the entire flock history in LambTracker so we’ve got to slowly get it all in there.