Farming: Identifying the best way ahead

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The use of electronic identification (EID) of cattle to improve herd management will be one of the main target areas on the 1,730 acre Glenbarr Farms, near Campbeltown, owned and farmed by Duncan Macalister.

Glenbarr – a mixed farming operation which also has 120 acres of barley and a breeding flock of 550 ewes – is one of the network of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) monitor farms throughout Scotland.

The 140-strong cattle herd of predominantly spring-calving Aberdeen Angus cross cows are mostly out-wintered, with all progeny finished, other than retained heifers.

Macalister told farmers at a monitor meeting he was considering investing in a cattle electronic identification system, for accurate individual animal record keeping and as a management tool to help identify superior and – importantly – poorer performing individuals and/or breeding lines.

“We’ve been trying for some time to keep accurate records for a variety of criteria, with the intention of using the information as a guide for replacement heifer selection,” he said.

But he admitted that currently ear tag numbers have sometimes been misread or written down wrongly. Also weight recording had not been totally reliable, thanks to human error.

A third leakage from accuracy sometimes occurred with the transfer of information from note books to computer.

“So,” he added, “with improving EID technology, I’m keen to EID the cattle to try to help improve what is the make or break of my cattle enterprise – the bottom line!”

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