SheepNet UK Newsletter – September 2019
LANGUAGE: EN – DATE: 13/09/2019
SheepNet farmers’ views on Precision Livestock Farming for sheep production
The availability of new technologies using electronic identification (EID), and Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) to manage livestock and reduce workload, should become more relevant for sheep farmers. However, the existing uses and uptake of these technologies in the EU is not known.
SheepNet, an EU funded project involving the 6 main EU sheep producing countries and Turkey, provided the opportunity for farmers to discuss and exchange their views on PLF technologies, through a survey and by establishing durable exchange between scientists and stakeholders across the EU.
Answers were collated from a SheepNet survey (across the 7 countries of SheepNet and Hungary (https://eurosheep.network/node/510). Although the majority (64%) of respondents agreed that EID and PLF were an opportunity for sheep farming, only 38% of respondents were actually equipped with tools that utilized the benefits of EID. The main motivations for having the equipment were for more precise flock management, as well as for time saving and labour simplification. However, the major barriers were related to cost of equipment, flock size and accessibility of equipment.
With these results in mind, the 4th SheepNet Transnational Workshop held in Sardinia focused on exchanging solutions and practices around the use of PLF for sheep management. Six main PLF tools were presented and discussed, namely for i) monitoring and managing the flock, ii) health management and shed environment, iii) nutrition (automatic feeders and feeding needs), iv) reproduction, lambing and artificial insemination, v) pasture and grazing management, and vi) milking and milk recording. Farmers’ most favoured tools were, in order of preference, 1) EID weigh crates with auto-sorter, 2) field weigh crates (Walk over Weigh), 3) GPS collars for locating sheep, 4) EID worming guns, 5) EID stick readers (with smartphone, tablets, etc.) for recording sheep movement, and the use of drone for pasture management. All tools are described on the SheepNet website (www.sheepnet.network).
The consensus of the workshop and the survey was that PLF can be part of the solutions to help improve sheep management in Europe, but more exchange and information on the potential benefits and financial aid towards purchase are required.
SheepNet is open to all EU countries, stakeholders, sheep producers. Our final UK seminar will be held in Perth on 23rd October – register here (https://eurosheep.network/node/511) if you are interested.