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  • Writer's pictureLinda Andrews - Editorial Assistant, Nuse Online

Automated Field System To Monitor Lamb Growth Trends



Sheep producers will be able to improve their flock’s efficiency thanks to Innovate UK and Defra funding towards developing a field based automated system to monitor lamb growth and in turn, provide data to make advanced and accurate predictions of time to reach target finished weight.


The funding worth over £430,000 has been made to David Ritchie Agricultural to help bring sheep technology into line with other sectors with a fully researched and validated auto-weigher that will gather extensive datasets to build in-depth pictures of individual and flock growth rates. “The system will provide information to help farmers in their feeding, grazing and breeding management decisions,” explains Agri-EPI’s Charlie Bowyer.

“Overall, the system will help farmers to measure and monitor lamb performance, one of their most essential tasks, but one which currently has various limitations."

"The auto-weigher will cut across those constraints and improve all round welfare by reducing the number of gathers and subsequent stress on the lambs which can stifle growth rates. The system will also make substantial labour savings.”


Ritchie’s Charlie Brown continues:

“The three-year project will initially evaluate three different designs: a walk over weigher, a monitor with creep to incentivise throughput and platforms in a field for lambs to jump on. Each design will be accompanied by a data-handling app."

“For farmers feeding creep, the project will also develop a metered feed lamb weigher allowing a user adjustable amount of feed to be fed to individual lambs. This prevents the dominant animals from getting more than their share of feed and provides a restriction on intake of feeds which can prevent ill-health from over-feeding.”


The platforms will be researched on three of Agri-EPI Centre’s innovation farms and one of Ritchie’s trial farms with lamb weight continually recorded from four weeks of age through to finishing to achieve a real time average for the flock. Ritchie will construct initial prototypes for each design of weigher and commission them on farm for validation while individual lamb weights will be transmitted over mobile phone networks to an online cloud database, processed and displayed on a web-based user platform.


National Sheep Association (NSA) project manager Nicola Noble comments:

“This technology development should reduce costs, save time, potentially improve health and welfare, and improve levels of data recording and its accuracy, alongside increasing productivity and efficiency at a whole flock level. NSA looks forward to this project progressing and providing industry input at the different stages of development.”


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