Saturday, December 16, 2017

Livestock records made simple with Herdwatch app

October 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Livestock

Herdwatch-2017-06-23 09.49.30

A new farming app – Herdwatch – is helping Leicestershire farmer Andy Webb viagra pas cher access calf weights and performance records anywhere on the field – saving him at least two hours of paperwork every week.

Together with his parents, Aubrey and Marion, Mr Webb farms a 26ha council holding at Usher Farm, near Gilmorton, with 237ha of additional rented land, contracted land and grass keep in different blocks nearby.

In total, the unit supports 120 milking cows with some 70 followers – including in-calf and bulling heifers – and 60 pedigree Shropshire sheep. Every calf and every lamb is reared on the farm, and about 100 additional calves are brought in annually, from local farmers, and reared on a variety of systems according to breed.

“I use Herdwatch mainly within the beef units,” says Mr Webb. “The links to the British Cattle Movement Service are great. I can automatically update and get all the records transferred to my phone. It’s easy to sort them into age groups, and I have all the records at the touch of a button.

Time-saving

“For me, with three sets of buildings and land around the parish, it’s perfect. I never have to waste time going back to the office to check the record of a particular animal, I just type in the last three numbers on the ear tag, and I have access to all the information I need.”

Fat cattle are weighed monthly, with Mr Webb recording growth rates and quickly weeding out animals that are not growing and converting to target. Target liveweight gain is over 1.2kg per day. Once stock stop performing to this level, it’s easy to select the ones to send off early.

“The ones that are doing particularly well I move to another group,” explains Mr Webb.

“The weight recording on the app is excellent, it allows me to see the weight gain of any animal at the touch of a button and as I can print reports, we often sit down as a family and go through them over the dinner table. Herdwatch has made my job so much easier.”

Each calf has an individual record on Herdwatch – so Mr Webb keeps information on about 400 animals on his phone at any one time. “I always have my phone with me as I move around, so it’s the ideal place to store information. I love the fact that it’s cloud-based too – there is no need for an internet connection.”

The only ‘hurdle’ for the app is that a lot of farmers are older – and not used to new technology. “I think we have to help them move forwards with this, because it saves so much time and once you get used to it, it’s honestly very, very, simple,” he adds.

The dairy herd is served mainly by Holstein Friesian bulls, with the Friesian bull calves put on a 12-14 month intensive indoor system. The heifers are all reared as replacements. He used some sexed semen this year, and although nearly twice the price, feels it was well worthwhile with 18 of 20 heifers in calf at first service.

Bull calves are reared in groups of five, then moved to groups of 10. At the end of the fattening process they are sold to wholesalers and most end up with retailer Tesco, the buyer of his milk.

Some Belgian Blue is also used on the dairy cows, and the farm has a Limousin bull to help ‘clean up’. These calves, heifers and steers, are reared on the same system, but grazed for 12 months before coming inside to be finished, thereafter they go to a local butcher. This is an 18/24 month system, depending on the time of year they’re born.

“We have some ridge and furrow grassland that needs to be grazed, so these calves make good use of this,” says Mr Webb. He makes plenty of silage – with 65ha of first and second cut in the clamp, and around 800 large round bales made.

First cut analysis shows a a protein level of 17.9%, compared with 13.3% in 2016. “We use all our own cereals, growing wheat, barley, maize and beans,” he says. “We make about 30 acres of maize silage too, and grow oilseed rape which is sold off the farm.”

His only purchases are soya, some molasses and minerals, all mixed in a TMR. An independent nutritionist does the rations, and he stresses how important it is to keep to low cost rations and high feed conversion rates, in order to stay in profit.

“For the time of year, the beef price is quite good at the moment, about 50p/kg up on this time last year, but you have to keep your eye on it all the time. That’s where Herdwatch comes in, it makes my decision making much easier and much more effective.”

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