‘De­mand for food must be sat­is­fied’

The Press and Journal (Inverness) - - NEWS -

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.

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