27th November 2009

Sheep Farmer Logs Experiences on Brewster’s Blog

A new blog has been launched documenting a Scottish sheep farmer’s experiences of using electronic identification (EID) to assist with performance recording his flock.

Alex Brewster of Rotmell Farm, near Pitlochry, Perthshire is describing his trials and tribulations on Brewster’s Blog – available at www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.uk.

The blog will allow other farmers to join Alex as he uses EID to help track the performance recording he undertakes as part of the ‘Better Breeding’ project funded by Quality Meat Scotland’s Scottish Sheep Strategy.

Rotmell is one of six Sheep Focus Farms in Scotland taking part in this flagship project aimed at quantifying the value of performance recorded tups as sires of slaughter lambs and as sires of breeding ewes.

In his first post to the blog, Alex said: “To manage it, you have to measure it and to measure it, you have to compile data. To manage data it is easier to use computers and this has thrust me into the physical and verbal debate on EID.

“The Sheep Focus Group is happy to watch the practicalities on the ground, but my biggest driver for the use of EID is to speed up the recording process and management of data.

“I have been able to take weights from my ewes at six a minute rather than one a minute.

“Recording lambs to ewes, I have had to get the families into a small handling pen between fields, EID tag the lambs, and with a hand-held reader link the lambs to their EID dams, also entering their sex and DOB at the same time.”

Rotmell is an organic unit producing finished lamb and beef. The majority of the 1800 ewe flock is Scottish Blackface although there is a small number of cross ewes.

The farm markets its own lamb and one of the aims is to extend the production season by keeping the smallest of the lambs and running them cheaply over the winter to finish off grass in the spring.

Kathy Peebles, Livestock Development Manager for QMS, said: “This new blog will allow farmers to hear of the issues and opportunities presented by adopting an EID system on farm. It will give an honest account of the implementation and use of such systems from an on-farm management perspective.

“The aim is to trial a system that allows the flow of electronically recorded performance data from the farm to Signet Breeding Services thereby reducing the time spent in the collection of information and the re entering. This in turn should help to reduce the overall cost of recording pedigree stock.”

For more information about the better breeding project, visit www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.uk

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