Smart sheep: precision livestock farming and sustainable sheep production

Lead Participant: Moredun Research Institute

Abstract

This project addresses the adoption of precision livestock farming (PLF) technologies in sheep farming. PLF has been widely adopted in the management of high-value animals e.g. dairy cattle, but is not currently applied to those with lower economic value, e.g. sheep, despite the potential to increase production efficiency. In the UK, there are around 23.3 million sheep, including 14.7 million breeding ewes worth approximately £690 million to the economy. Since 2010, all individual sheep in the UK are equipped with EID (Electronic Identification) tags, further paving the way for use of PLF technologies. However, uptake is a major issue. A recent survey of European sheep farmers showed that only 38% of farmers have any EID equipment, which are rarely used for sheep management. Likewise, in the UK, a survey of PLF technology adoption showed that 55% of farmers did not have and did not intend to adopt EID technology for management purposes.

The project consortium will engage with end-users (members of the farming community and farming advisors) early in the project, to co-design tools to increase the uptake of PLF on-farm. We will use one proven PLF tool; an existing pen-side tool to optimise lamb worming, using an algorithm for the early identification of under-performing lambs. This Targeted Selective Treatment (TST) has been developed at MRI and validated at MRI, SRUC and on commercial farms, including one facilitated by 5Agri. The adoption of TST reduces wormer use and labour, and the costs required. Importantly, it slows the development of wormer resistance. Farmers have described a clear need for this type of approach on farm. However availability to the farming community is currently hampered by the lack of a user-friendly method for farmers to access the algorithm. This project will facilitate the integration of the algorithm into a cloud-based platform, thereby making it easily accessible to farmers.

Validation of the improved technology will be performed on 10 'innovative' and 2 research sheep farms across the UK, covering a range of geographical locations and using commercially appropriate sheep breeds to ensure evidence that is relevant to a wide range of sheep farms. Cost-benefit analysis and carbon foot-printing of implementing the new approach will be conducted.

The results of this project will be disseminated through on-farm knowledge exchange events at strategic locations across the UK to demonstrate the ease, accessibility, cost-benefit and environmental benefit of using this integrated pen-side TST approach.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Moredun Research Institute, United Kingdom £74,387 £ 74,387
 

Participant

SRUC, United Kingdom £44,197 £ 44,197
5 Agri Llp £25,448 £ 17,814
Datamars Agri UK Ltd £7,000
Synergy Farm Health Limited £15,164 £ 9,098
Nighthawk Software Limited £72,440 £ 50,708

Publications

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