High-tech water trough could help grade cattle for market

A water trough which measures and collects images of beef cattle could help farmers predict the best time to send animals to market in future.

Scientists at SRUC are developing a precision farming tool which uses video imaging technology to track the growth of beef cattle and predict the carcass characteristics of live animals.

By collecting 40 different measurements from individual animals, the Beef Monitor system uses live data to create 3D images which can then be analysed and used to predict when animals should be sent to market.

See also: How a beef farmer has shaved 90 days off finishing time

Describing the research, which is being funded by InnovateUK, SRUC research scientist Gemma Miller said the system uses video imaging technology which is increasingly being used by abattoirs to grade carcasses.

The Beef Monitor system would allow farmers to use that same technology to grade the animals on-farm, helping them decide the best time to send cattle to slaughter, and ultimately become more efficient.

“Producers currently assess the performance of their cattle either through visual assessment or through a crush,” she told delegates at the BSAS annual conference in Dublin.

“This can lead to animals being retained on-farm too long, so they don’t achieve their optimal market price, and they become more costly for farmers to rear them.

“This system can provide accurate weights for individual animals on a daily basis without the need for manual handling,” Dr Miller added.

“Collecting carcass characteristics on-farm means farmers can then use that information to market their animals at the best-possible time.”