Raising awareness of SRUC's hill farming expertise in Ireland

Published Thursday, 9th November 2017 in Hill & Mountain Research Centre news

SRUC's hill farming
Pictured: sheep on a hill

Davy McCracken, Head of SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre, recently spoke at a conference in the west of Ireland about the need for innovation in hill farming systems.

The Burren Winterage School is an annual event which provides an opportunity for farmers, advisors, researchers, public servants and NGOs to come together and engage constructively in creative dialogue around future directions in farming, particularly as it relates to farmland of high natural and cultural value.

Conference organiser and local farm leader Michael Davoren said: “The lessons we have learned in the Burren are that we have to work with others – including the universities and government agencies – and also that we have to come up with new ideas if we are to survive as farmers in places such as this, where it’s just not realistic to intensify or expand our farms.

“Some of the best ideas come from the farmers themselves, but we also need to hear new ideas from other countries and we need to be aware of new approaches to farming and support new policies which in turn can support us.”

This autumn’s event had a focus on ‘Community Inspired Innovation for Sustainable Farming Systems’ and included speakers from Sweden, Scotland, England and Ireland who shared their stories of innovation and farming across 18 different presentations. Examples presented included new technologies for feeding and watering livestock on hill farms, the therapeutic use of farms to support vulnerable people (called ‘social farming’) and agricultural policies which reward farmers for delivering environmental benefits.

Davy’s presentation focused on the Precision Livestock Farming approaches being researched and demonstrated at SRUC’s upland research farms at Kirkton & Auchtertyre, near Crianlarich. These range from applying ‘back to basic’ approaches to ensure more appropriate management of soils and grassland in in-bye fields, through demonstrating how the use of existing Electronic Identification (EID) tag associated equipment can improve on-farm livestock management decisions, and out to the use of emerging technologies such as drones and sensors to obtain more information from across the farms as a whole.

Davy said: “This was a great opportunity to highlight how what we are doing here in Scotland is of direct relevance to hill farmers in the west of Ireland and elsewhere across the UK and Europe. Innovation simply means doing things differently, and we are able to show how a variety of changes to farming practices can help ensure a future for hill farming going forward.”

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