Livestock farmers’ picks of useful precision technology

Precision farming technology is an essential part of a livestock farmer’s business now.

We asked past Farmers Weekly Awards winners and runners up what technology they are using on their farms and how it benefits them.

Heat detection collars

Beef Farmer of the Year 2013 Phil Jones, Lan Farm, Carmarthenshire

Silent Hersdman heat detection collars have been one of the best bits of technologies I have on my farm.
 
I used to rely on natural service before AI and the prospect of AI’ing and heat detection was daunting at first.

However, the new system of heat detection has freed up a lot of valuable time and labour on surveillance.

It has also picked up heats the human eye just wouldn’t have seen.

Diet feeder weight management system

Dairy Farmer of the Year 2013, Hugh McClymont, Crichton Royal Farm, Dumfries

We use many various systems of technology on our farm, but the one I consider to be the most effective is the weight management system on our diet feeder.

Benefit

The major benefit of this system is the accuracy with which we can feed the nine different daily rations to the various groups of livestock on the holding.

I can track what was fed and when it was fed and the accuracy of loading the ingredients and also the accuracy of dispensing the various feeds. I also use it for inventory management for reordering new deliveries on a planned basis.

Accuracy

On the accuracy front when I input 365 days’ worth of feed dispensed and the amount that was planned and the actual amount fed this is less than 1%, which I consider to be a fair result.

Dry matters

The other benefits are when dry matters change in the progress of clamp usage you can alter the dry matter as and when this changes.

Budgeting

Budget preparation is made easier with historic information easily retrievable from the software.

For more on this: Precision feeding technology makes dairy gains

Farm Wizard data collection

Beef Farmer of the Year 2011, Sam Chesney, Kircubbin, Northern Ireland

The best bit of technology we use on farm is Farm Wizard.

This allows all data to be held in one place including; herd book data,  quality assurance reporting, beef monitoring ,drugs records, permit printing, feed records  and grassland records.

This system is a massive benefit to use as all records are held in one place; it’s easy to access and is user friendly.

EID ear tags and sprayer GPS

Beef Farmer of the Year 2007, Jilly  Greed, Fortescue Farm, Thorveton, Devon

Using EID ear tags and the reader for accurate weighing of cattle has been one of the most useful pieces of technology. This helps monitor how livestock are performing on the beef unit.

Other useful technology areas include the GPS auto shut off on the arable crop sprayer, which has helped to reduce costs and the website XFarm.co.uk for selling grain and OSR.

Milking system

Dairy Farmer of the Year 2012, Thomas Steele, Rowreagh Farm, Co Down
 
Our milking system is the most important piece of technology on the farm.

We purchased a new herd management program from Afimilk in Israel which collects data on cow performance and also monitors weight changes.

This is the first such system to be installed in the UK and has really moved the management of the herd to the next level.

The complete system includes weighing, sorting and feeding. By weighing cows we are able to monitor weight gains and losses which will allow us to focus on each cow individually.

Feed

From the feeding point of view each cow is targeted with feed to reach its true potential. This brings great savings in terms of less concentrate usage and more milk by feeding to both yield and body weight.

It also has allowed us to use a second liquid feed in the parlour to help get extra energy into ketotic cows.

Fertility

Negative energy balance has a big influence on fertility and with the weight monitoring it will help select cows that need extra attention and also ones that are in positive energy for breeding.
 
The real evidence comes in terms of services per pregnancy which has dropped from 3.5 straws per cow down to 2.1! This now allows for a more efficient use of semen and reduces the number of straws used per cow.

Heat

Cow heats and inactivity are monitored through the use of a brand new design of pedometers.

Cows that show signs of heat and are very active will be flagged up for attention while also cows that are inactive and may be sick will also be highlighted.

This will help improve cow health and productivity by detecting these signs earlier than the human eye.