Sheep farmers worried by the extra paper work that could be generated by electronic identification of sheep could ease the burden by incorporating a flock manager program.
Welsh Marches farmer Richard Hammond has been using the Farmplan Flock Manager program and says it helps him record the information he needs.
Mr Hammond runs 700, mainly Welsh Mule, ewes with 70 suckler cows and has 40 acres of arable for stock feed on his farm near Kington. He says for his day-to-day flock management he doesn’t want to keep more information than he needs to so will only be recording individual IDs where he is legally required to do so.
The program works well with his approach of tagging lambs in batches and makes life much easier. “We are too fraught at lambing to have time to tag each lamb and relate it to its mum and when a lamb loses a tag we don’t want to have to reorder an individual replacement tag in cases where we don’t need to,” he says.
“It’s much easier for us to tag lambs in batches of 50 or 100 usually the day before selling them. Then, when I go indoors later for slaughter animals I just record the flock mark and number of animals. For breeding animals all I have to do is enter the first and last numbers we used into the Flock Manager program and it fills in all those between.
“Later, when I need Animal Movement Licences or an updated Flock Register I have no forms to fill in by hand – just a couple of clicks and the software generates the forms with the details automatically filled in based on data held in the system – even the four copies of the Movement Licence which are required.”
Mr Hammond hasn’t invested in an EID tag scanner yet but may do so in future. “The way Flock Manager copes with our batch tagging system means it doesn’t seem necessary at the moment but I know if I do decide later to get one then the program is all ready to work with one.”
England and Wales have different regulations – different dates for the start of the flock year for instance – and this could be a big complication for Mr Hammond whose farm sits astride the border. “The Farmplan program copes with this for me, so whichever side of the border the inspector comes from I can present my records in the right format,” he says.
The program also automatically generates reports which show movements and deaths of sheep and keeps a running total of the sheep on farm, which he finds handy to check back whenever he does a flock count.
When we looked at how to enhance Flock Manager in light of the new legislation we were worried flockmasters might think the legislation requires more work than it actually does, says Farmplan’s Piers Costley.
“We felt we could design something to reduce the confusion over what is actually required to meet legislation. We wanted to ensure sheep farmers could choose to only keep the records they needed to keep and had a user friendly software program to do it. Flock Manager also comes with 12 months support should sheep farmers need help using the program.”