Upland sheep farmers are often perceived as traditional but nothing could be further from the truth at the SRUC’s hill units at Kirkton and Auchtertyre, where precision farming is proving a win-win system for the future.

Over the past five years, increased technology to include the use of EID and a fully automated weigh crate have allowed for targeted selective treatment when worming lambs, which in turn has enabled the business to reduce overall ewe and lamb handling costs by as much as £4 per head per year.

“Precision farming is not only for cereal producers,” said Professor Dave McCracken, head of hill and mountain research at SRUC.

“By treating individual animals according to their specific nutritional and medical needs, we have not only been able to cut our costs of production but also reduce the risk of anthelmintic and antibiotic resistance.”

By weight recording every animal every time it is handled, and knowing the approximate weight it should be at that time of year, Dr Prof McCracken said more efficient use of medicines and feeds can been made.

For example, he said that the amount of wormer has been reduced significantly as not all lambs need dosing even though some clearly have dirty back ends. If they are hitting the weight they should be for their age, he said there is no need to dose.

“We only dose the lambs that are not growing properly,” said Dr Prof McCracken.

“By looking at a lamb’s previous individual weight and the weight it should be, we can determine which lambs are below their target weight, which then get a reduced dose according to their actual weight. Those that are above their target weight are not dosed.”

It’s a policy that has been adhered to for the past three years, which compared to the control group that has been ‘blanket treated’ as normal, has seen no difference in the weights of the weaned lambs.

More notable is the fact that only 40% of the lamb crop had to be treated in the precision group using 16litres of wormer, compared to the control group which used 30litres of wormer on 100% of the lambs.

It also eliminates the need and cost of faecal egg counting.