‘Demand for food must be satisfied’
at the detriment of wildlife and the environment, it is unlikely that this will override the basic need to feed a burgeoning world population.
Thankfully, environmental stewardship and efficient production are not mutually exclusive. In fact, efficient production allows improved output with less environmental footprint than inefficient systems. The drive for a greener agriculture should be based on reducing the nutrient use whilst boosting production to meet the increase in demand for food.
I was down in the Borders this week for a project meeting at Robert Neil’s impressive Upper Nisbet unit. Robert has a strong focus on genetics and backs this up with a nutrition programme based on home produced forage and cereals.
The project at Upper Nisbet aims to monitor the individual feed conversion efficiency of individual cattle. The growth is measured using the new Ritchie Beef Monitor units to automatically weigh the cattle every time they go to the water trough to drink.
All cattle are individually EID tagged, but have also been kitted out with the latest movement detection collars from Silent Herdsman.
These collars have been developed to predict feed intake and rumination, and the combination of the two systems gives the opportunity to understand the individual intake and growth of each animal.
Generating this information fundamentally changes our understanding of growth and efficiency and makes it possible to select poor performers – in terms of growth or margin per day.
The potential to link this to the farm genetics will drive a more focussed understanding of how genetics are expressed on individual units, and even greater opportunity for longterm improvement.
The new technologies give a glimpse of the way farming is changing, and how the development of these new systems will help the industry reduce its environmental impact whilst adopting new, progressive and more efficient production models. If agricultural support is being targeted towards reducing farming’s environmental impact, industry will be able to respond positively – and not by moving away from progressive production.