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Latest beef technology featured at Scotland’s Beef Event 2019

– Press release –

A comprehensive programme of practical beef demonstrations highlighting the latest technology available to beef farmers will be a major feature of Scotland’s Beef Event 2019 to be held on an Aberdeenshire farm on May 30.

This biennial on-farm event for the beef industry, organised by the Scottish Beef Association, will be hosted by farmers, Robbie and Barbara Milne, and son, James, at North Bethelnie, Oldmeldrum.

The main enterprise on the farm is a suckler herd of 320 Salers and Salers cross cows crossed with Charolais, Aberdeen-Angus and Salers bulls, with all calves either finished on the farm or sold as forward stores.

Features of the extensive programme will include a demonstration by the Agri-EPI centre of the benefits of sensor technology for the beef industry. This will include a new technique of inserting a bolus to measure body temperature for the earlier detection and warning of possible health problems such as pneumonia and Silent Herdsman collars, as used in the dairy industry, for fertility management and pregnancy diagnosis.

The Beef Monitor System, developed by Ritchie of Forfar in a project supported by Scotbeef and M&S, will also be featured. The system enables the performance of finishing cattle to be closely monitored by using technology to have them automatically weighed every time they drink.

The latest update to the system processes all the data using a traffic light system to indicate the performance of individual animals. The next step will be the fitting of cameras to measure conformation and predict the animal’s carcase classification.

A crate fitted with solar panels has also been developed to enable the system to be used in grass paddocks.

Moocall will be demonstrating their calving sensor which attaches to the tail of cows and tracks the tail movement patterns to accurately predict when cows are likely to give birth. An SMS text alert is sent out by ‘phone an hour prior to calving to enable the stock person to be present for the birth. The system is 100% non-invasive and gathers 600 pieces of data per second so that it can accurately predict when cows will give birth.

Other features will include demonstrations of foot trimming by Michael Creighton, drone technology for livestock systems by Mike Swindells of Perfect Pasture, and hydrogen powered machinery by Philip Davies of Water-Fuel Engineering.

The benefits of pelvic measurements as an aid to select heifers for easy calving will be explained by vet, Graham Fowlie, of Meadows Vets, Oldmeldrum, in a Vet Spotlight session, and SAC senior beef consultant, Gavin Hill, will conduct a live discussion with Robbie and James Milne on the management of their beef cattle enterprise.

There will also be a fencing demonstration by Alistair Smart of GP Smart and Son, Alford, and the benefits of wood waste, green waste and paper waste will be featured in an alternative bedding demonstration by A W Jenkinson Forest Products and Keenan Recycling, New Deer.

It is also hoped to include a special demonstration on grassland management, covering treatments, cultivations and applications.

“Technology is the future and Scotland’s Beef Event will provide beef farmers with an ideal opportunity to catch up with all the latest technology as it applies to the beef industry and to discuss its benefits with the experts,” said SBA vice-chairman, David Barron, who chairs the event organising committee.

“We are grateful to those organisations who are arranging such a comprehensive demonstration programme which will be of great interest to all beef producers.”

Other features of the event will include a farm tour, beef breeds demonstrations, a “Beef after Brexit” seminar, stockjudging competitions and an extensive trade stand area.

Gold sponsors already confirmed include ANM Group, Clydesdale Bank, East Coast Viners Animal Nutrition, Kepak McIntosh Donald, Meadows Veterinary Centre, Norvite Animal Nutrition, Ravenhill, Salers Cattle Society and Water-Fuel Engineering.

Technology meets farming for better management

Partners beef monitors:
Partners Beef Monitor: Agri-EPI Centre, Ritchie Ltd and Scotbeef

As UK farmers face huge changes in their business environment, making precision all the more critical, Agri-EPI Centre is working with them to develop technologies that help to banish guess work from management decisions.

One of the four Centres for Agricultural Innovation established by Innovate UK through the UK government’s Agri-Tech Strategy, Agri-EPI has teamed up with 28 innovative farms, covering commodities including beef, dairy, sheep, arable, pigs, potatoes and root crops. The purpose of these ‘satellite’ farms is to allow new technologies and techniques to be developed and trialled in commercial farming environments.

One of the farms is Bielgrange in East Lothian, owned and run by Niall Jeffrey, AgriScot’s 2018 Scotch Beef Farmer of the Year. Niall has been at the forefront of trialling new Beef Monitor crates developed by Ritchie Agricultural in conjunction with Agri-EPI.

These are effectively modified handling crates with an integrated water trough, which cattle enter voluntarily to drink, indoors or outdoors. As they do so, the crates’ inbuilt sensors record the daily live weight of each animal. With the correct analysis, this daily data can be hugely beneficial in helping a farmer make speedy decisions to reduce costs and ensure animals are delivered to Scotbeef in-spec. Scotbeef monitors the impact of using beef monitor units on carcass specifications.

The Beef Monitors have gone through several phases of development as a result of the on-farm trials and this will continue during 2019, with a view to increasing the type of data that can be collected. The important element, says Agri-EPI Centre’s Farms and Commercial Manager Gavin Dick, is that the beef monitor concept has been shown to work. Gavin explained:

“Farmers are having to adapt to huge changes in their business operating environment, meaning there is now a much greater need for live and detailed management information that allow them to better-informed decisions. The Beef Monitor has already proven to be an ideal vehicle for starting the process of gathering such information, potentially giving beef farmers key information significantly earlier than the best stockperson could identify using their eyes and experience.”

“Now we know the cattle will happily enter the crates voluntarily and stress-free to drink, and we have had really important feedback from Niall and the other farmers trialling the Beef Monitors, this is where Agri-EPI really comes into its own. We are now assessing which of the many available sensor technologies – such as boluses, collars, anklets and even breath analysers – could further enhance data collection and analysis. Such tech is already being used on robotic milkers in the dairy industry so it’s time to see the beef sector catch up.”

Dave Ross, Agri-EPI Centre Chief Executive said:

“The satellite farms are a core element of our activities to bring productivity-boosting technology to UK farmers across all of the key farming sectors. Crucially, we work hard to create and enhance connections between the farming industry, science and commercial developers of new technologies. This is a critical time for UK farming and this multidisciplinary approach is the best means of identifying novel solutions.”

Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Innovation Lead for the Agri-Tech Centres added:

“In their short lifetime the four Agri-Tech Centres have engaged in a major capital build programme developing new high technology assets to drive forward the applied R&D capability in the UK to develop solutions to real world problems that the farming community face.

“The Agri-EPI satellite farm network is a good example of this, providing a unique environment where new technology can be trialled on farms, and the benefits demonstrated to farmers. Apart from the build programme, the four Agri-Tech Centres have to date already engaged with over 35,000 UK farmers, secured 46 projects worth £14.2 million to the research consortia, and £3.1 million to the Centres, created 98 high tech jobs, involved 192 organisations and several high-profile Government initiatives. These include Rural 5G Broadband. The success of the Agri-Tech Centres is being noticed overseas and already attracting a lot of interest from countries as far afield as Paraguay, New Zealand and China.” 

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