The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
Sheep project is a good example of collaboration
College: Countries combine for livestock research
SRUC’s Professor Davy McCracken offers an insight into work at the college’s hill and mountain research centre
The work of my team here at Kirkton and Auchtertyre in the west Highlands revolves around highlighting to Scottish hill farmers and crofters what changes they can make to increase the future sustainability of their farms and crofts.
Many of those insights arise from the agricultural and environmental research we conduct on the farms.
But many also come about from our contacts with scientists and livestock farmers working in mountainous and remote regions elsewhere in Europe.
I have highlighted in previous articles that we are already involved in a number of European projects, all with a focus on improving livestock system sustainability.
And I am pleased to say that we and our partners have been successful in winning funding for another project which starts in January next year.
EuroSheep is a threeyear EU-funded project led by Idele, the French Livestock Institute.
There are 10 partners drawn from seven EU sheep-producing countries (France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK) together with Turkey.
The project has two main goals. The first is to assess how best to improve individual and flock performance through improved management of animal health.
The second will consider how an enhanced focus on the nutritional needs of the animals can help reduce annual feed costs.
We are inputting to the project in association with SRUC animal welfare and
SAC Consulting sheep specialists.
Members of my team will also lead on the wider European dissemination of the solutions identified.
The range of partners involved means that the project will focus on both meat and milk production.
A common focus will be put on the adult ewes, given their importance in transforming the vegetation they eat into marketable meat and dairy products for human consumption.
The nutrition and health of lambs will also be considered, though different partners will focus on how best to raise lambs so they can express their full genetic potential when destined either for meat production or as replacements into a dairy flock.
EuroSheep will involve input from a wide range of farmers, farmer organisations, advisers, researchers, policy makers and representatives from across the meat and dairy supply chains.
Farmer input to the whole process is essential to ensure their experience of what does and does not work is taken into account.
But facilitating direct farmer-to-farmer discussions is also a great way to transfer knowledge effectively.
“Farmer input to the whole process is essential”