Livestock farmers coping with multiple production cost hikes have little choice but eliminate non-essential inputs and use essential ones as precisely as possible.

That was according to Jonathan Statham, of RAFT Solutions, closing the recently-held Precision Livestock Farming in Practice conference for farmers and vets.

Speaker Nicolas Friggens, visiting professor at SRUC, a senior researcher at INRAE and leader of the GenTORE consortium, said some aspects of greater precision in the use of resources needn’t be complex, nor costly for many farmers.

“As long as it’s calibrated for accuracy, used frequently, then the measurements studied and acted upon means that a weigh crate or crush becomes a precision farming device,” he argued.

More high-tech options, like behaviour surveillance for early problem spotting or oestrus detection could also become more accessible, explained animal behaviourist, Mark Rutter, from Harper Adams UC.

“Up front financing of the necessary capital investment will become a thing of the past,” he said. “Already, this is moving towards the smartphone model, with capital cost items wrapped into a service contract.

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“Clearly, a return on the monthly outlay is essential to make this viable. Farmers selecting any higher precision support system need a clear definition of what they want it to do for them and how that payback will be derived.”

Visitors to the event also heard how individual high somatic cell count (SCC) cows could be identified from DNA analysis of a bulk milk sample.

Richard Miller, from NMR, said just one tissue sample per animal, as a calf or adult, would be required for genomic analysis to make this possible throughout each cow’s lifetime. Conference goers were told the service currently in development by NMR will be called GenoCells.

In addition to identifying high SCC cows for culling, Mr Miller said that, in conjunction with sexed semen, it meant farmers could also avoid breeding future herd replacements with a genetic pre-disposition to high cell counts.