A planning tool to help beef farmers improve productivity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions is set to widen out to include herds across Scotland.
The Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) is working with Scottish beef producers to develop a “livestock dashboard” that will give farmers the information required to reduce the carbon produced per kg of meat while improving herd profitability.
The Livestock Performance Programme (LPP) uses data already collected through the ScotEID movement and registration system, which is also managed by SAOS.
Anna Robertson, SAOS project manager who oversees LPP, said the data will be deployed to allow farmers to make “small, meaningful changes” with “significant positive outcomes”.
She said: “By using industry-owned data,held in ScotEID there is a wealth of ‘live’ information at our fingertips to demonstrate areas for improvement across the herd.
“These include information such as trends on calving spread and interval, history of cow and calf mortalities, ages at first calving and cows leaving the herd after one calf amongst other factors for a herd’s success.”
Ms Robertson added: “It will be possible to incorporate additional data that is being recorded, for example, at markets and abattoirs, to provide weights and grades of animals being sold. This all helps to build a broader picture of production on farms and where improvements can potentially be made.”
SAOS is working with ANM Group through its Farm Profit Programme, which involves a cohort of 15 Scottish farms. The farmers are able to offer suggestions on how to make the data both easier to digest and useful.
The ANM project has been running since 2017 while SAOS launched LPP in 2019 following a £60,873 grant from the European Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund.
Ms Robertson said making the vast amount of data collected “farmer-friendly” was an essential part of the project’s design.
She said: “We are continually testing and redesigning how the information is presented and what information is presented.
“It’s important that we know what key information will be of most benefit to the farmer. We don’t want to bombard them and make them switch off.”
The project will continue to be expanded across Scottish beef herds into a national programme, with plans to adapt it for sheep as well.
Ms Robertson said: “Farmers have limited time to spend raking through paperwork to find and calculate herd performance and trends over the years. LPP can provide this information.
“With this kind of information immediately to hand, more productive time can be spent providing advice and guidance on what has happened, what is happening here and now and what can be improved on for the future.”