Dr Claire Morgan-Davies, Harriet Wishart and Dr Tony Waterhouse
Electronic Identification (EID), compulsory for sheep flocks since 2010, is based on low Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), most often inset within ear tags or as microchips. Research, demonstration and knowledge exchange activities conducted at SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre, Kirkton and Auchtertyre research farms (near Crianlarich) aim to highlight opportunities for farmers to see the technology as a means of better management rather than an additional burden on resources.
- Data collection – data reader held near eartag gives access to all stored info relating to particular animal
- Animal handling/labour savings – with properly calibrated weigher/shedder nearly 500 animals per hour can be weighed/sorted so farm labour is more efficiently used and is major benefit for extensive farmers
- Data accuracy – mistakes/paperwork linked to misread tags reduced with recorded/stored info used in animal movement records/medicine books
- New opportunities – basing husbandry management and decision-making at animal level rather than flock/herd leads to improved productivity/efficiency
- Health and safety – risks to animal handling staff reading tags/sorting animals can be reduced by using data reader and automated weigher/shedder
Supported by Scottish Government’s research programme, SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre Team at Kirkton and Auchtertyre Farms is investigating the potential of using EID in automated livestock management as a tool for Precision Livestock Management. The team are investigating potential uses, benefits and issues of sheep data collection with fixed reader (eg weigh crate), handheld (wand) reader and auto-drafting of the animals for ease of handling and labour savings. A targeted approach to winter feeding of animals (based on individual weight change) is also being trialled and tested.
Anthelminthic resistance in sheep flocks, in collaboration with Moredun Institute, using Targeted Selective Treatment approach for lamb worming, based on animal weight change as assessed by EID, is being studied.
The team is further investigating how EID technology can support data collection for EBVs (Estimated Breeding Values) in hill sheep and potential links to abattoirs as a means for farmers to obtain more accurate feedback on animals sent to slaughter.
Please tell us about you and what you think of using EID for management of
sheep, so that we can help the industry realise its potential benefits. Take part in our EID Survey.
Sheep EID at SRUC