Livestock - Agri-EPI Centre

Livestock

Working with farmers, academic institutions, scientists and researchers, at Agri-EPI we explore and deliver precision farming engineering, technology and innovation in UK agriculture. Supporting innovative projects with beef and diary herds, pigs and poultry and more, championing the sector and seeking to improve efficiency, productivity and the welfare of animals in modern farming.

Increasing buffer feeding precision with new agri-technologies

Faced with rising feed prices, effective use of grass for both grazing and conservation is increasingly important for farmers to maintain margins. Balancing the need to ensure sufficient silage stocks for the coming winter with the desire to get the most from grazing to reduce spend on purchased feed.

As the climate remains unpredictable, as seen by the cold, wet spring of 2020 followed by hot, dry weather, grass growth rates have seen wide variances year-on-year. With so many fluctuations in price and seasonal changes, buffer feeding is likely to be required by many farmers at some stage during the grazing season to prepare for dips in grass growth.

While the majority of buffer feed is made up of maize and grass silage, there are alternatives available. In partnership with molasses blend supplier ED&F Man, Agri-EPI Centre research conducted at the Agri-EPI South West Dairy Development Centre found that including a proportion of straw and molasses-based liquid feed in the buffer feed can offer the dual benefits of allowing production to be maintained whilst preserving valuable silage stocks.

Buffer feeding research

The trial aimed to better understand and analyse the impact of replacing some grass silage in the buffer feed with a mix of wheat straw and Regumix, a high-energy and protein liquid feed made from molasses, compared to the original feed and the molasses/straw buffer feed.

Utilising the centre’s GEA Mullerup automated feeding system, a digitally-controlled system with the necessary precision for feeding trials, and working with Agri-EPI’s operational partner, Kingshay Dairy Consultants, ensured data and delivery protocols were adhered to for reliable results. 

Lower feed costs, greater production

Georgina Chapman, technical support manager at ED&F Man, reported: “Over a six-week period, there was no difference in yield between the cows fed the initial buffer and those where straw and Regumix was included. The cows were mainly later lactation and the animals on the molasses buffer showed similar lactation persistency but slightly better compositional quality.”

“Importantly, for cows in later lactation, there was no difference in body condition changes between the two groups,” she added. “However, there was a saving of 7.5kg silage per cow per day. Assuming 200 cows were fed the new buffer, the total silage saved over the six weeks would have been over 60 tons, giving more for winter feeding.”

In a commercial herd, the buffer feed would probably have been needed for 18 weeks; on closer analysis, this suggested potential savings of closer to 200 tons, which could then be used to increase silage fed per cow per day over winter.

Chapman noted that, as molasses and straw are easily stored and less likely to perish in storage, their inclusion in buffer feed can also contribute to maximising silage production and availability, ultimately maintaining production from grazing and reducing the impact of higher feed costs for farmers.

Agri-technology increases buffer feeding precision

Reviewing the trial results, Agri-EPI Centre’s head of dairy at the South West Dairy Development Centre Duncan Forbes said, “We know growth rates can change very quickly … with the best will in the world no dairy farmer can keep on top of grazing output using manual techniques. At the same time, adjusting buffer feeds on a more frequent basis would be a challenge.”

“Collecting and utilising better management information could help take a significant step in improving grazing use – and new technologies hold the key to this.”

“Integrated use of data and technology in this way can help improve the contribution from grazing, reduce feed costs, improve grazing utilisation and help meet carbon reduction targets for more sustainable systems.”

With further trials already underway using hyperspectral imaging and satellite data to monitor and predict grass growth, helping farmers optimise precision grazing and fine-tune buffer feed, agri-technology continues to support farmers. Agri-EPI’s work to improve agricultural productivity and save farmers time and money even attracted the attention of British Dairying, who covered the buffer feeding precision trials.   

Holistic farming platforms to support agri-businesses

Three years ago, Glas Data founders Rob Sanders and Colin Philipson saw a need to help farmers produce larger quantities of better produce in a sustainable and cost saving manner. They tailored an existing platform to the agricultural industry and launched software system GlasCore. This system was specifically designed to help farming businesses control and monitor all aspects of their farm and process, ensuring they capture and isolate any potential problems before they became major issues.

Agri-EPI met with member Glas Data to find out more about their technology supporting farming businesses, the collaboration with hardware providers and their plans for the future:

 

Q&A with agri-tech innovator Glas Data

This high tech system, can be explained in three stages:

  1. Hardware – form of installing sensors that captures real-time data (example: Temp of milk)
  2. Gateway – Wirelessly and securely collects the data.
  3. Software – GlasCore displays this data in a readable and easy to understand manner.

With this whole system being wireless and automated, all our client need do is log on to their dashboard from the comfort of their home or on the go on their phone to see all the real-time readings and track their farming data.

The great thing about GlasCore is that yes it aggregates data from sensors, but it can also  aggregate data from other sources, such as the NMR (National Milk Records). This allows for the data to be imported really easily and displayed, for example, by cow. We have current users who can now access and review the protein, fat, milk levels etc in individual cows. Then, with one of our most recent exciting updates, they can visualise these cows in one graph all separately and be able to easily track the highest performing, and different levels in comparison to one another.

Depending on the business targets and aims our system can help in a myriad of ways. We sit down and talk with each potential client and customer and ask them for their targets and goals, this way we are able to customise their dashboard to achieve this. From monitoring key metrics to alerting someone of a potential issue, GlasCore, is customised to the clients needs.

What is key to note is that GlasCore draws together all of your business data, from freezer and fridge temperatures, to water and energy usage, to monitoring whether a door is open or closed, GlasCore brings this into a easily accessible versatile dashboard.

This year has proven the importance of the UK farming industry and how we need to ensure the best care of our animals, produce, and entire process from the feed we provide our animals to the best quality in processing products. UK farmers work tirelessly long days and harder than ever to ensure this and we want to help them. Our software is designed to provide business and personal reassurance and peace of mind which I think is important now more than ever. Farmers care so much for their animals and farms, we need to help care for them but giving a little help where we can.

The various features within the system, and can be really tailored to the clients needs and use. Some tools and aspects may not be as essential depending on the usage.

  • Mapping: Through the RPA, map out your land parcels, hedges, field boundaries and names into one easy to use map. Visualise your buildings, landmarks and then pin your sensors to their specific locations. (Expand)
  • Real-Time Alerts: Setting up specific alerts from your live data incase a temp goes too low, or a large amount of water is used to prevent failures, leakages and ensure your business is looked after 24/7. You chose the parameters and create the alerts to what you need. Receive a text or email when something spikes.  (Expand)
  • Visualisations: Real-time data is great, but here you can visualise this in a helpful way that allows you to notice spikes, compare data, and track its progress. (Expand)

The UK farming industry is becoming more and more important with everything going on in the world. Something we have been working thoroughly on is water monitoring and early leak detection. Through monitoring key metrics and providing a substantial overview of usage, we can detect leakages early and also find ways to conserve water and form a more sustainable way of farming. There is much more detail to this, but our system presents all of your data in a way that you can use it to take action.

The farming industry has taken incredible steps over the last decade and is reaching for a low carbon and sustainable way of working, providing more produce of better quality. Through this many people have IoT devices (Internet of Things) and smart sensors all collecting data, but no platform to review, track and notice trends for this. This is where GlasCore comes in! Working with companies that allow us to provide over 70 different LoRaWAN sensors and gateways to collect the data, we have the whole package.

Our development team work continuously to develop and provide more and more exciting features. One of my tasks is to ask our customers and clients what they want from their dashboard and if we cannot already provide that service, work with the development team to create a solution and place this in to our development pipeline. We have actually just had a large update over the weekend, that I will be creating tutorial videos for to showcase the new functions.

Our aim as a team and company is to help farmers take control of their data, massively increase the data they manage so that the decisions they make are as informed as possible, and in the long run analyse all the data and generate insights that are completely tailored to them.

 

More information

If you would like to understand more about the on-farm software solutions on offer, please contact Glas Data by using the following contact details:

Email: hello@glas-data.com
Phone: 07485 017650

45 Lemon Street
Truro, Cornwall
TR1 2NS
United Kingdom

Research to use artificial intelligence to identify sick livestock

The welfare of livestock could be improved thanks to a new research project that will use novel artificial intelligence methods combined with behavioural analytics to provide rapid and reliable insights to animal health for farmers across the UK. The research and commercial feasibility program, co-funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, will be led by the Quant Foundry (QF) in collaboration with the University of Bristol Vet School and Agri-EPI Centre.

The team headed by Dr Chris Cormack at QF will run a feasibility study with Professor Andrew Dowsey and animal welfare experts, Dr Siobhan Mullan, Dr Suzanne Held and Professor Michael Mendl at the University of Bristol and Agri-EPI Centre at their South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset.

The project aims to provide a new cost-effective solution for farmers and vets to identify illness in livestock providing not only cost savings but also a means to reduce the impact of farming on the environment.

Dr Chris Cormack, Managing Director at the Quant Foundry (www.quantfoundry.com), said: “In conjunction with our research partners, Bristol Veterinary School and Agri-EPI, the study of behavioural analytics in animals will open up a new era in artificial intelligence driven solutions for farmers. We have great hopes that not only can we help farmers provide improved care for their livestock but also help reduce their economic costs and their environmental impact.”

Professor Andrew Dowsey, Chair in Population Health Data Science at Bristol Veterinary School and a specialist in data solutions for health and agriculture, added:

“This collaboration is a fantastic opportunity to translate cutting-edge artificial intelligence approaches to build upon the UK’s high standards in cattle welfare and support farmers in our targets for net-zero emissions.”

Duncan Forbes, Agri-EPI centre’s Head of Dairy said:

“Agri-EPI’s South West Dairy Development Centre is dedicated to the development and evaluation of exciting emerging technologies such as this and we’re looking forward to working with Quant Foundry and Bristol Vet School.”

Throughout the project the collaborative team will be actively seeking partners to help them commercialise and build capability as the project matures, this can range from direct investment or from interested companies looking to complement their existing activities in this upcoming area.

Hackathon inspires solutions for tackling impact of COVID-19

Concepts for a solar powered, zero emission orchard robot and a remote, digital veterinary diagnosis tools which requires no apps or software installation have been announced as the winners of the Agri-EPI Centre agri-tech hackathon. A total of 11 teams took part on the hackathon, which was held to support the development of technological solutions to problems posed by COVID-19. The winning teams receive a year of product launch support from experts at Agri-EPI Centre.

Hackathon team winners

The Hackathon focused on the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors:

Horticulture hackathon

The winning team in the horticulture sector is Orcharbot with their concept for a solar powered, zero-emission crop scouting and weeding robot featuring six technology innovations for weed identification and organic removal, fruit surveying and picking. The team members came from University of the West of England, Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Antobot.

Judging this section of the hackathon were Rob Wilkinson of Grimme; Ali Capper of the NFU; David Telford of Knowledge Transfer Network and Adam Spate of Bardsley England. They were highly impressed with the ambitious, zero emissions concept.

Veterinary hackathon

The winner of the veterinary hackathon is a team from technology provider FarmVet Systems. Their concept – ‘VetAccess’ – builds on their existing VetIMPRESS secure data management platform. Their idea focuses on enabling farm teams to benefit fully from the technology in the face of challenges created by vets working remotely due to Covid restrictions.

The judges in this category were Jan Van Dijke of Zoetis; Tim Potter of WestPoint Farm Vets (VetPartners); George Paterson of Landmark Systems; and Lucy Mather of the Knowledge Transfer Network. They particularly liked the farmer-focused vision behind the concept.

Agri-EPI’s Business Development Director, Lisa Williams, said:

“The level of interest and enthusiasm from all the entrants to our hackathon exceeded all of our expectations and we thank all the competitors and the judges for taking part. The Agri-EPI team is very excited about the coming year, as we work with both winning teams to support the feasibility testing and development of their concepts.

“There were many other strong ideas put forward during the hackathon which show great promise, so we have decided to work with all teams to provide support as they build on their ideas.”

Partners

We thank our challenge partners for their support: Vet Partners, ZoetisKnowledge Transfer Network, Landmark Systems, Bardsley England, Grimme, NFU and Knowledge Transfer Network. 

 


This Project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, through an Open Call issued and executed under the project SmartAgriHubs (Grant Agreement No. 818 182)

This Project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, through an Open Call issued and executed under the project SmartAgriHubs (Grant Agreement No. 818 182)

Agri-tech hackathon seeks solutions to COVID’s impact on farming

Registration now open for an agri-tech Hackathon aimed at developing technological solutions to problems posed by COVID-19

Winners will receive a year of product launch support from experts at Agri-EPI Centre. 

The Hackathon will focus on the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors. Participating teams will be challenged to explore solutions in two areas: the shortage of labour supply for field operations in horticultureand the restrictions on how vets can travel to conduct farm diagnoses and prescription.  

They will have the 12-hour duration of the Hackathon, on 23 and 24 September 2020, to come up with proposed technical solutions within their chosen stream which, if deemed by the judges to have winning market potential, will become the focus of the year-long ‘product launch programme’ delivered by Agri-EPI. 

Agri-EPI’s Business Development Director Lisa Williams explained:

“We invite any businesses, organisations and academic institutions with an involvement or interest in agri-tech to take part in what promises to be a really exciting event, with the aim of delivering new products that address some of the serious impacts of Coronavirus on the farming industry. Collaboration is key to innovation and we look forward to working with the participating teams, and the winners, to develop new ideas. 

“The winning teams will have 12 months of access to Agri-EPI’s technical and project management expertise, our world-class research and innovation facilities, testbeds and research assets, and our extensive network, which includes a membership of more than 120 companies across agriculture, technology and the supply chain. 

The Hackathon is supported by the European Horizon 2020 project Smart AgriHubs. The Challenge partners for the veterinary Hackathon are Vet Partners, ZoetisKnowledge Transfer Network and Landmark Systems. For the horticulture Hackathon, the challenge partners are Bardsley, Grimme, NFU and Knowledge Transfer Network. 

To find out more and register, visit the following website.

Hackathon launch webinar

If you’re a business or academic institution with an interest in agri-tech, join us today (18 August) at 2:00pm to hear more from Agri-EPI Centre’s CEO, Dave Ross, as he goes into more detail about the Hackathon and challenges faced by many in the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors. Register now at register.gotowebinar.com/register to secure your space!

COVID-19 will drive digital transformation for livestock vets

The COVID-19 crisis is a catalyst for increasing the rate of digital adoption by UK livestock vets, according to Agri-EPI Centre Board member Matt Dobbs.

Writing for the Animal Pharm website, Matt, who is practice lead for digital technology at Stonehaven Consulting, suggests coronavirus has led the already-challenged veterinary industry to question the ways it works and identify areas for improvement.

Factors already indirectly influencing the livestock veterinary industry, including the increasing focus on domestic food production, have come even more to the fore because of the crisis. As food production responds and adapts, says Matt, livestock vets must consider how they can stay ahead of the game.

Digital transformation for livestock vets

Digital solutions for monitoring livestock health and welfare have become more varied and more affordable over the past 10-15 years, while also becoming of greater interest to the big processors and retailers. Matt believes the rise of digital technology could very well revolutionise the types of services offered by livestock vets.

Citing the move by the UK’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to respond to Covid-19 by legalising the remote prescribing of medications to farms, Matt suggests, that should this happen across Europe, we will reach a point where the majority of medicines are dispensed by just a few companies.

Loss of revenue in this area means farm vets will have to look at new streams, very likely involving tech solutions. This could see ruminant vets becoming consultants looking after larger animal populations remotely, like their pig and poultry counterparts already do.

Matt said:

“The future is going to be very different. You will see different business models, such as dedicated farm consultant working from the back of their car. Do they really need an office and all the expense that goes into having a clinical practice? All they really need is a decent laptop, access to health and production data and a car.”

Stay informed

Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.