Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Project seeks to improve lamb and calf survival

February 6, 2019 by  
Filed under Livestock

Increasing profitability for farmers through improved lamb and calf survival is the key focus of a new project involving British beef and sheep units.

Researchers are collecting data from farms on health measures in the neonatal period. The aim is to improve productivity in beef and sheep production – and highlight the responsible use of antibiotics by livestock producers.

The project is being funded jointly by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Hybu Cig Cyrmu and Quality Meat Scotland. It is being run by Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham universities and will link to existing work at Bangor University.

Better performance

Edinburgh University lecturer Alexander Corbishley said: “With the challenging economic climate and the need to reduce the environmental impact of ruminant production systems, there has never been a greater need to increase the sector’s efficiency.

“By carrying out this project we will be able to identify the key management factors that can be addressed by farmers to improve performance.”

Data from an online survey which ended last month will enable producers to benchmark health status and antibiotic use. It includes estimates of survival, information on management practices and reasons behind medicine use.

AHDB scientist Lis King said: “This project will lead on to a control plan focusing on neonatal disease that could increase productivity and ultimately profitability for beef and sheep farmers.”

Healthy livestock

She added: “We’ll also be able to understand current antibiotic use and look at options for reducing use on farm, which is key in developing a healthy and sustainable British livestock industry.”

Once developed, suckler herds and ewe flocks will be invited to pilot the control plan around the UK, alongside their veterinary surgeons, before wider release.

The work was financed from a £2m fund of AHDB red meat levy money ring-fenced for collaborative projects that benefit producers in England, Scotland and Wales.

The fund is an interim arrangement while a long-term solution is sought on the issue of levies being collected at point of slaughter in England for animals, which have been reared in Scotland or Wales.

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