Adopting new technology can deliver important cost and labour efficiencies to livestock farmers, according to a pioneering Borders producer.
Fenwick Jackson, who will share his experiences with delegates at Quality Meat Scotland’s R&D conference in Perthshire this week, is making the most of technology to deliver management, welfare and business benefits.
Mr Jackson farms with his father at Kersheugh near Jedburgh where they run 150 Saler cows, 2,500 ewes, 650 breeding ewe hogs and 300 dry ewe hogs on 425 ha across two units extending to 750 feet above sea level.
The majority of cattle are out-wintered on kale and turnips and the ewes are also out-wintered and fed silage via a home-developed self-feed system. The breeding flock is made up of a number of breeds including Katahdin, Dorper, Wiltshire Horn, Easycare, Lairg Cheviot and Scotch Mules with the aim of stabilising a breeding sheep suited to on-farm conditions and management practices.
The new technology Mr Jackson has adopted into his business includes a determined bid to derive maximum benefit from the requirement to electronically identify sheep, which became mandatory this year.
Mr Jackson uses a Racewell handling machine capable of weighing and/or sorting sheep into six pens at the rate of 450 animals/hour and a conveyor race which enables easy, secure and fast handling. This equipment is backed up by handling pens designed with easy flow the priority.
With compulsory EID coming on stream he decided to upgrade his handling system to fully utilise the wealth of information EID can generate.
“With this technology being imposed on us I opted to make some proactive decisions and add readers and software to collect information about my flock to my existing kit,” said Mr Jackson.
“Upgrading our systems to read the EID tags enables me to personalise the data being collected and keep track of all the life data about an animal. This means we can easily keep an eye on information such as growth rates, breeding info and, in time, the performance of certain crosses without the need for lots of head scratching and shedding of different genotypes.
“The equipment can also log data while mixed mobs are being handled as the equipment knows ‘who’ it is dealing with and more importantly what they’ve done in the past.”
Fenwick will be presenting at the QMS R&D Conference on 19 January at Murrayshall House Hotel . For more information visit www.qmscotland.co.uk