The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
New flock technology is worth training support
Of SRUC offers an insight into work at the rural college’s hill and mountain research centre
Six years ago we hosted a visit to the farms by S c o tt i s h G o v e r n m e n t officials and farmers from around Scotland delivering the first round of Farming f o r a B e tt e r C l i m a t e Monitor Farms.
We demonstrated the use of our weigh-crate and autodraf ter – this links to the electronic tag on each individual sheep, automatically collecting information on their weight and sorting them one of five ways depending on how we want to split the flock.
We h i g h l i g h t e d t h a t there was a strong climate change rationale for more hill farmers to use such technology, as it can allow them to manage their flock as a group of individuals and help inform decisions on feeding, worming, drawing animals for slaughter and selection for breeding.
G e tt i n g a l l o f t h e s e factors right can improve the cost effectiveness of management, improve the health and performance of individual animals and thereby help reduce the overall carbon footprint of the flock.
An added bonus is that it can also save time and labour for the farmer, reduce handling stress for the animals, reduce paperwork and increase the ease and accuracy of performance data recording.
We highlighted that one reason for lack of uptake of the technology was the initial cost of purchase and we advocated the need to provide some financial assistance to hill farmers to enable them to invest in it.
We have made that case so often without success that it came as a pleasant surprise to see this technology included within the items available for support within the Pilot Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grants Scheme.
But having the ability to purchase such technology is one thing. Knowing how to use it effectively is another.
We have consistently advocated the need for effective training in the use of new technolog y and I hope one of the lessons learned from this pilot will be the need to facilitate training alongside the purchase of any new equipment.