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 through Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency’ 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 SRUC, Synergy Farm Health, 5 Agri, Nighthawk Software, LSSC Ltd, Datamars Livestock 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.”

Notes to editors

  1. Moredun Research Institute conducts internationally recognised research on the infectious diseases of livestock, caused by important viruses, bacteria and parasites. It employs scientists and vets that work to improve animal welfare, ensure food safety, reduce adverse impacts on the environment, and to contribute to sustainable communities through economic development across Scotland and beyond. Moredun’s research focuses on understanding the interaction of the disease pathogen with the host species, in identifying new targets for improved diagnostic tests and in development of novel vaccines for many diseases. For further details visit moredun.org.uk
  2. SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College SRUC provides Research, Education and Consultancy for the land-based industries, to create, develop and apply knowledge, skills and understanding to enhance the sustainability of rural areas and communities and the viability of the industries on which they depend. SRUC conducts well-established policy-led research in precision livestock farming, socio-economic, and farming economic resilience, and places a high priority on knowledge transfer to the farming industry. SRUC has a number of research farms across Scotland, including the Hill and Mountain Research Centre in the Western Highlands, which has state of the art sheep handling and EID recording facilities (automated EID weigh crate and auto-drafter, sheep conveyor, mobile recording devices and EID enabled individual feed intake recording equipment). For further details, visit https://www.sruc.ac.uk/info/120252/hill_and_mountain_research_centre
  3. Synergy Farm Health is a farm animal practice with a specialist Sheep Health service covering Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Wiltshire. Their sheep team consists of five dedicated vets focusing on preventative flock health planning and research; targeting neonatal lamb mortality, antibiotic reduction strategies and parasitology.  Their integrated team of sheep vets, veterinary technicians, laboratory technicians and SQPs is focused on delivering sustainable health management solutions for commercial flocks and promoting flock efficiency.  For further details please visit synergyfarmhealth.com
  4. Datamars Livestock is a business division of Datamars, and is a global leader in animal identification products, farm infrastructure products, animal performance and monitoring and animal health delivery products. Datamars Livestock includes globally recognised brands Z Tags, TagFaster, Tru-Test, Speedrite, Hayes, NJ Phillips and Simcro. This combination enables animal health, precision livestock management and improved protein production. All of this is underpinned by a cloud software solution; called Datamars Livestock; which connects farmers with information about their livestock, bolstering their intuition and enabling them to make precise, informed decisions.In the UK market, Datamars Agri UK (DMUK) facilitate the tagging of several million animals each year and supply the UK Agri trade from supply and distribution centre in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, Ballycastle in Northern Ireland and Craven Arms in Shropshire.Find more details online www.datamars.co.uk or follow our social media feeds.
  5. 5Agri offer a full range of Agricultural Consultancy Services which includes business, financial and technical advice to farming clients across the UK. The group work collaboratively internally and externally with various partner organisations to deliver innovative projects. 5Agri are leading innovators in the development of farm management technology and their in-house software, Agri-Ignite provides an automated farm management platform and smarter more efficient consultancy delivery. https://5agri.co.uk/
  6. Nighthawk Software specialises in the development of web based (“cloud”) solutions for small to medium sized companies located throughout the UK. By creating tools for employees to collaborate and work more efficiently, we help businesses to scale and grow more effectively, while providing a more consistent experience for their customers.  We work with a number of partners across a wide range of industries to develop, launch and maintain a number of cloud based “SaaS” products.Nighthawk Software has been working with 5Agri for a number of years now on the development and launch of their Agri Ignite platform – a cloud based management and benchmarking platform aimed at UK based farmers and consultants.
  7. LSSC Ltd was formed in 2002 and provides specialist advice on all aspects of sheep production to farmers, corporate bodies, vets, Government and NGOs. Lesley Stubbings (Director) has a central role in the pan industry group SCOPS, (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep) as well as day to day contact with individual and group farmer clients across the UK.
  8. Elanco Animal Health.At Elanco, we provide those who raise and care for animals with solutions that empower them to advance a vision of food and companionship enriching life. We understand the powerful role healthy animals play in making lives better. As pets increasingly become important parts of our families, so too does the need to help them live longer, healthier, higher-quality lives. As the global population grows, so too will the need to meet the demand for safe, affordable food for all. https://www.elanco.com/
  9. Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas.
    We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth.
  10. Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is part of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy and brings together leading researchers and businesses to tackle big societal and industrial challenges to raise productivity and earning power in the UK. https://www.ukri.org/innovation/industrial-strategy-challenge-fund/#pagecontentid-0
  11. Transforming Food Production Challenge is the government’s challenge to industry and research to transform how we produce food to feed the expanding global population. Up to £90 million of funding is available to help businesses, researchers and industry to transform food production, meet the growing demand and move towards net zero emissions by 2040. https://www.ukri.org/innovation/industrial-strategy-challenge-fund/transforming-food-production/#pagecontentid-0

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