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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.”

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Webinar agri-tech opportunities in Columbia

International collaboration

The diverse opportunities in Colombia available to UK agri-tech companies is the focus of an Agri-EPI Centre webinar on Thursday 23 April.

Agri-EPI’s Director of Business Development Lisa Williams, who will co-host the webinar, was part of a recent trade mission to Colombia, organised by the Prosperity Fund, the Knowledge Transfer Network and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). During a tour of the country, Lisa witnessed first-hand the many opportunities, particularly those associated with fruit, coffee, livestock and cocoa supply chains.

Lisa said:

“There is so much potential in Colombia for UK agri-tech businesses. At present, there is a significant gap in yield between the smallest and largest producers and technology is needed to help fill the gap.

“It’s clear that the Colombian government and its agri-food sector want to increase food production, but, crucially, they want to achieve this sustainably, meaning technology has a huge role to play in increasing precision and efficiency across all sectors. The various organisations I met are extremely interested in working with UK agri-tech companies so there is a huge opportunity in this diverse country.”

Agri-tech in Colombia

Colombia is the third largest Latin American country by population (49.8m) and the fourth largest by GDP. It had an average economic growth of over 4% between 2001 and 2017 and grew 2.7% in 2018. Ranked third in Latin America and the Caribbean for “ease of doing business” in 2017 by World Bank and the IMF, Colombia has access to 60 countries and more than 1.5 billion consumers through its network of trade agreements. Some of these agreements include the US, Canada, the EU, and South Korea.

Hosting the webinar with Lisa will be representatives from the British Embassy Colombia, Catapult Satellite Applications and Knowledge Transfer Network.

The speakers will provide an overview of findings from the trade mission and how UK agri-tech companies can respond to the needs of the Colombian agri-food supply chain. There will also be information about Colombia’s major trade show, ‘Expo Agrofuturo’, which, coronavirus restrictions allowing, is planned for August this year.

More information and sign up details for the webinar can be found here.

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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.

Target innovation in agriculture with Agri-EPI’s Farm Network

How do the innovative technologies and approaches, being devised and trialled through Agri-EPI Centre, make their way to the front line of UK farming? A key route is through the Centre’s 28 satellite farms, a network of commercial enterprises covering all major agricultural commodities.

Research and Development

The farms are set up as test-beds for research and development to aid the improvement of productivity and efficiency within the farm and across the sector. The network will measure key elements within each farming system using cutting edge agriculture techniques and equipment, such as robotics, sensors, satellite imagery, soil analysis and precision feeding and nutrient application.

The results of studies on each farm will be used in three ways: each farm will demonstrate and highlight successful innovations to others in the industry through on-farm meetings (each farm has its own dedicated meeting and research space with full Wi-Fi connectivity and presentation facilities); tech companies will work with the farms to test new products before taking them to market; data collected from across the network will be of value to government, researchers and the supply chain in identifying current trends and future developments.

Introducing Upper Nisbet Farm

One of the satellite farms signed up with Agri-EPI Centre is Upper Nisbet Farm in the Scottish Borders. Upper Nisbet Farm runs a beef finishing enterprise with a 320 head of cattle and 636.25 hectare of arable and grassland. This video outlines the Satellite Farm concept, projects ongoing and which systems are trialled in collaboration with commercial partners. The data collected helps to understand where inefficiencies are entering the farming system, allowing Agri-EPI Centre to identify areas to target innovation. The satellite farm, in return, can improve efficiency and become more profitable.

Agri-EPI Centre’s Projects and Technical Manager Stephen Burns explained there has been strong interest from farms around the UK in membership of the satellite network.

“We have sought to select farms with strong links into the major retailers and which have a good track record of innovation and knowledge exchange. So far, the network covers enterprises producing beef, sheep, pigs, poultry, dairy, cereals and fish. We’re also seeking to recruit fruit and salad suppliers.”

More information

If you would like more information about the Satellite Farm Network, please contact Agri-EPI Centre via enquiries@agri-epicentre.com. Watch this space for more news on the Satellite Farm Network as the initiative progresses.

3D cameras to save pigs’ tails

A new high-tech solution to the problem of tail biting in pigs has been devised by Scottish scientists and could become an alternative to the controversial last-resort practice of tail docking. The research is a collaboration between Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Scottish farm technology company Innovent Technology Ltd, pig supply chain partners including north-east animal feed firm Harbro, and the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (Agri-EPI).

3D cameras

The initiative is designed to drive higher welfare standards on farms and involves a system of 3D cameras which are installed above feeders to detect whether a pig’s tail is up and curly, or held down against the body, which researchers have shown is a sign that tail biting is about to begin.

The work was carried out using 23 groups of weaner-grower pigs which were regularly scored for any signs of tail injury, and tail biting was stopped as soon as an outbreak was detected.

It has been published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Lead author of the study, Dr Rick D’Eath from SRUC, said:

“Tail biting results in pain and sickness for bitten pigs and severe economic losses for farmers as infection through tail wounds results in abattoir condemnation of meat. This condemnation alone can cost a producer up to 1% of the carcase value and a loss for the processor of 1% of saleable carcase from the pig. There are also unquantified on-farm costs as a result of the increased labour and veterinary treatments resulting from an outbreak. Tail docking of piglets is partly effective at reducing tail biting in later life, but is seen as an undesirable mutilation and its routine use is banned in the EU.”

He said that automatically measuring tail posture could act as an early warning of tail biting. Dr D’Eath added: “The challenge for us now is to develop this promising technology into a robust on-farm early warning system that works on any pig farm.”

Innovate UK funded

The work is to be developed in a follow-on Innovate UK-funded project called ‘TailTech‘, which will collect data from more diverse pig farms and develop and test a prototype early warning system. Other pig supply partners will also be involved, including pig breeders JSR Genetics, engineers David Ritchie Ltd, pig vets Garth Pig Practice and farmers’ co-operative Scottish Pig Producers.

Grant Walling, director of science and technology at JSR Genetics, said:

We recognise that tail biting impacts on animal welfare, farm productivity and pork quality. Any tool that can help reduce or eradicate the problem is a benefit to the whole supply chain. This technology has the potential to predict future victims so offers opportunities to update and include information within our selection strategies to reduce the incidence of tail-biting in future generations.

 

Source: This article has been published on The Press and Journal at 14th April 2018 (author Nancy Nicolson)

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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.

Precision agriculture technology opportunities in New Zealand

Innovate UK awarded Agri-EPI Centre funding to explore precision farming technology opportunities in New Zealand. Although in terms of economic performance New Zealand dairy and beef sectors are world leading, uptake of precision farming technology has been limited, especially in comparison with European countries such as France and The Netherlands.

New Zealand partner

Earlier this year, the Agri-EPI Centre team has met up with local partner Massey University. Researchers at Massey University are leading a large project to understand the variation in productivity, efficiency and environment impact across New Zealand Dairy and Beef Farms. Through Innovate UK funding Agri-EPI Centre is supporting this research by installing automated measurement technologies developed in the UK. This will involve the installation of 3D camera technology to remotely monitor the growth and carcass quality of beef animals, alongside collar-mounted sensors to monitor the activity, eating and rumination behaviours of both beef and dairy animals. The data collected from this project will give UK companies a chance to develop their products for a new market.

For more information about precision agriculture opportunities in New Zealand, please contact Agri-EPI Centre Technical Team via enquiries@agri-epicentre.com.

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