An Aberdeenshire sheep producer told farmers attending a recent monitor farm meeting that EID can deter rustlers as well as offerin productivity and paperwork reduction benefits.
Aberdeenshire sheep farmer Roddy Scarborough from Huntly, has been successfully using EID in his flock of 1600 ewes and 300 hoggs for five years. At a recent meeting of the Moray and Nairn Monitor Farm, part of the programme run by Quality Meat Scotland, he encouraged the community group to think positively about sheep EID.
“I originally bought this system just to record sheep movements, but it has also helped deter thieves. In the past I had lost quite a few sheep, including 50 ewes with lambs in one go. But once news got round that my sheep were electronically identified with boluses, the thieving stopped!” said Mr Scarborough.
Electronically chipped boluses are used in the flock. Following the new identification rules introduced at the beginning of this year, the electronic number of the bolus must correspond with a black ear tag to provide a visual identity. The use of boluses obviously demands a reader, and Mr Scarborough uses a hand-held reader, regularly downloading all information to his computer.
His flock of Cheviot cross Shetland ewes are wintered away, and moved three times a year. The Suffolk cross lambs are sold as stores. The operation of this enterprise obviously generates a substantial amount of record keeping.
Lambs are tagged before they go to the hill and useful information - for example gender, whether they are twins or triplets or have had any problems – is fed into the reader at the same time. If a sheep dies, the number is fed into the reader, automatically updating all records.
The system comes into its own with its ability to track and cross reference a whole range of information, including veterinary medicine use.
Mr Scarborough said: “If I’ve treated a sheep with medication and want to trade it before the withdrawal period has completed, the computer flashes up a warning and for things like farm assurance inspections, all the records needed are on the computer. You just have to remember to put the right information in at the start.”
With activities involving large numbers of sheep, he uses a race reader which records the number of each bolused sheep as it passes, transmitting the individual identities to the hand held reader. This can be located nearby or in a vehicle, enabling the farmer to work freely with the sheep.
“When I put a bunch of sheep to the hill, I run them through the race, so the race reader transmits the numbers to the hand held. Then, when I bring them back, if some are missing I can run them all quickly through the race, and the reader gives me the numbers of the ones that have gone astray,” observed Mr Scarborough.
As he has become more experienced with this identification system, his computer confidence has built. “I’m learning that there is a lot more potential to make life easier and better thanks to using this system.”
He does, however, flag up a drawback to using boluses. “I may change from the boluses to tags. When the sheep are away at winter they do lose some ear tags, and while electronic ear tags can be replaced quickly and cheaply with a complete new pair of tags, I have to buy in black replacement tags because of course the number has to match the bolus inside the sheep.”
There is currently support for farmers interested in introducing EID tags. Any sheep farmer registering with the ScotEID pilot project is offered a refund of 40p for every EID tag purchased. For more information, visit http://www.scoteid.com
The next Moray and Nairn Monitor Farm meeting at Cluny Farm, Forres will be held on 27th October.
For further information, please contact either of the joint Facilitators:-
Peter Cook tel: 01467 623222 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Colin Anderson tel 07500 012883 or email:- email@example.com
For general information on monitor farms plus detailed reports of meetings visit www.qmscotland.co.uk/monitorfarms