Livestock Production Students Explore Innovative Technology
A mix of 3rd year Agriculture and Rural Business Management students, from Aberdeen campus, visited SRUC’s Easter Howgate research farm as part of their Livestock Production Systems module. Over the course of the day, students were shown a variety of advancing technology used throughout livestock enterprises to increase economic efficiency.
“It was great to interact with the technology we were learning about. The team showing us the facilities and equipment were excellent at widening the conversation to incorporate other aspects of the industry. I came away from the trip with lots of food for though” – Hollie Cruikshank, BSc Agriculture.
RIC (Roughage Intake Control) feeding systems demonstrated how ear tag scanning can help monitor DLWG (Daily Live Weight Gains), adapt individual feed rations and increase overall feed efficiency. Students got very involved in the demonstration of the Beef Monitor Crates, which weighs cattle as they come to drink. The use of 3D cameras can also be integrated to measure heights and lengths which, combined with weights, can calculate ratios to help increase accuracy of finishing cattle. Researches on site discussed the farm’s current trials, highlighting the affects of stress in cattle on their activity and overall productivity.
Students were given access to the Green Cow Project, which analysis cattle methane production levels based on the use of different diets and stimuli. A demonstration was given on the benefits of using thermal imagining to identify ailments in livestock. This method can highlight areas of dermatitis, mastitis, lameness and internal body temperatures in a non-invasive way, minimalizing stress of both animal and handler.
Decreased stress handling systems were also demonstrated, discussing basic characteristics which can have significant effects on the cooperative nature of cattle. Structural changes as small as changing corners to curved runs and having the crush facing an open space, can allow cattle to feel more relaxed. Once in the crush, cattle were used to show the accuracy of back fat scanning to identify individuals ready for slaughter.
Following on outside, students were involved in the discussion and demonstration of various drone models, including one constructed by an SRUC PhD student. Students discussed the vast opportunities drones offer including; yield mapping, virtual fencing, thermal imagining, pasture control and crop monitoring.