– by C. Morgan-Davies and A. McLaren (SRUC)
On the 22nd of September 2022, following the TechCare annual meeting in Glasgow (Scotland), the TechCare partners were given the opportunity to visit the UK sheep meat pilot farm located in the mountain areas of Scotland. After a scenic drive along Loch Lomond, partners arrived at SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre, near Crianlarich, in the North West of Scotland, where the TechCare pilot farm is situated. The farm is typical of Scottish mountain farms in the area, with 2200 hectares of mountain pastures, carrying 1300 sheep. Partners were first welcomed by the research team on site who explained the main features of the farm. The main technologies used on the pilot farm were then presented (Electronic Identification weigh crate and auto-sorter, proximity beacons and sensors, UHF tags and antennas, outdoor weather station and environmental sensors, and the LoRaWAN network used to transmit the information from the sensors). The work carried out by our TechCare PhD student, Aimee Walker, on the proximity beacons to assess mothering behaviour between ewe and lamb after lambing, was also presented via a video. Partners were then shown how the SRUC staff conducted the TechCare sheep welfare assessments during handling, using the farm conveyor, and outside in the field, as well as some preliminary results on lameness scores. They then walked up to one of the many viewpoints of the farm, to see where some the outdoor winter-feeding trials had been conducted and to get an understanding of the challenges and scale of the pilot study in mountain conditions. It was an excellent opportunity for the TechCare partners to see first-hand the conditions under which one of the UK pilots was conducted, and to appreciate the issues faced using the various technologies on trial in a remote, mountainous area. It also gave valuable information to partners who will now begin to recruit farmers and organise the large-scale studies on commercial farms that will start next year. A very good team building event for TechCare, and an excellent occasion to showcase Scottish extensive farming conditions – on a very sunny day! Have a look at the video presentation made by Aimee Walker!