'Return to the Hills'

Sheep

Kirkton and Auchtertyre Farms are leading the 'Return to the Hills' by doing research to support, develop and demonstrate how to address the agricultural and environmental challenges and opportunities facing hill farming systems.

The scale and diversity of the farms mean that they can be used for both systems scale and component scale research and demonstration.

Examples include:

  • Developing tracking sensors for livestock using Low frequency, wide area radio network (LoraWAN) technology to transmit the information and, given that we now have a farm-wide LoraWan network established, investigating what other types of agricultural or environmental sensors could be utilised on mountain farms to improve management decision making.
  • The introduction of compulsory sheep Electronic Identification (EID) tags has been controversial and challenging for the hill sheep farming industry. Some of SRUC’s research and demonstration is focused on assessing how the technology (in association with automated handling systems) offers an opportunity for sheep farmers to improve flock management and profitability and also benefit from reducing costs, improving record keeping and saving time and labour.
  • The application of modern genetic selection and improvement technologies – such as Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) – offers unique opportunities to enhance the productivity, profitability, and competitiveness of the livestock industry in Scotland. Ongoing sheep breeding research at SRUC is highlighting how EBVs are being used to produce measurable improvements in performance and outputs from the flock on SRUC upland farms.
  • SAC Consulting and SRUC research and farm staff are working with a group of local farmers from across the Highlands who meet regularly to discuss ways to improve grassland management and productivity and to establish grassland improvement trials on SRUC’s research farms. This group is also discussing bracken encroachment (which is a major issue across the Highlands & Islands) and the role that thistles can play in the spread of scabby mouth among lambs.
  • The Hill & Mountain Research Centre has a long history of working at an international level, given that conditions in Scotland’s uplands are very similar to rangelands elsewhere across the globe. Research staff are involved in a range of European and international research and knowledge exchange projects and activities. In recent years, this has also involved assessing the wider ecosystem services associated livestock grazing and other upland land use systems.

Prof Davy McCracken

Head of SRUC Hill & Mountain Research Centre (HMRC) / Professor of Agricultural Ecology

Address: Future Farming Systems, SRUC, JF Niven Building, Ayr KA6 5HW (HMRC, Kirkton, Crianlarich, Perthshire, FK20 8RU)

Telephone: 01292 525 299

Fax: Mobile: 07712 001267

E-mail: davy.mccracken@sruc.ac.uk

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