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Research Consortium receives funding for Smart Sheep Project

A research consortium which brings together leading academic institutes, industrial partners and sheep health experts has received funding from the government’s Transforming Food Production Challenge Fund for a project which aims to encourage adoption of precision livestock farming technologies (PLF) in the UK sheep flock.

The project is led by the Moredun Research Institute and includes 5 Agri, Night Hawk Software, SRUC, Synergy Farm Health, LSSC Ltd, Datamars Agri UK and Elanco Animal Health.

The Smart Sheep project will build and develop user-friendly tools to drive PLF uptake on sheep farms, validate the approaches by working with focus farmers to implement the tools on their farms and embed the adoption of PLF methods in the UK sheep industry.

The Transforming Food Production Challenge is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The Smart Sheep project budget is £248,000.

Uptake of PLF in sheep farming is very poor, even though all sheep in the UK sheep flock are electronically identified (EID) with a tag. PLF techniques have been developed to harness EID technologies to optimise lamb worming, through the use of an algorithm which identifies underperforming lambs for treatment, therefore only selected lambs are treated, known as Targeted Selective Treatment (TST). The use of TST has major benefits for the farming community in terms of reduced reliance on wormers and wormer use, labour and cost savings and slowed development of wormer resistance. Uptake of TST by the farming community is currently hampered by the lack of a user-friendly method for farmers to access the algorithm. The Smart Sheep project will facilitate the integration of the algorithm into a cloud-based platform, making it easily accessible to farmers.

Validation of the improved technology will be performed on sheep farms across the UK, covering a range of geographical locations and using commercially appropriate sheep breeds to ensure evidence that is relevant to a wide range of sheep farms. Cost-benefit analysis and carbon foot-printing of implementing the new approach will also be carried out. The project results will be disseminated through on-farm knowledge exchange events at strategic locations across the UK to demonstrate the ease, accessibility, cost and environmental benefits of using the integrated pen-side TST approach.

Dr Fiona Kenyon, Principal Investigator at the Moredun Research Institute and Smart Sheep Project Leader commented: “We are delighted to be successful with our funding application to take forward the project and deliver innovative solutions which will enable sheep farmers to increase their productivity and profitability.”

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