Monday, 15 October 2018
Farming in Middle Duntisbourne in Cirencester, David Barton is one of AHDB’s strategic farmers and is reaping the benefits of installing weighing technology to help improve the efficiency and productivity of his beef enterprise.
With a 103ha farm, David currently farms 60 South Devon and Sussex x Saler cows with a small arable enterprise. Joining the project last year, David wanted to focus on collecting data that could help him to increase efficiency but ensure he was producing the best product possible to hit market specification. To do this, installing new technology on the farm to help with day-to-day practices was an area David was keen to explore.
“We’ve never weighed our cattle before we became a Strategic Farm as we had always managed without and the cost of buying and installing the equipment had been a barrier.” AHDB worked closely with Tru-Test to install weighing equipment on to each beef and lamb Strategic Farm by the end of 2017. Since then, David has taken on the practice of regular weighing and noticed the considerable changes this has made.
“I’ve been really surprised about the difference the equipment has made to our business. I’m now able to see how all the cattle are growing, which, when we’ve been faced with weather conditions like we’ve had this year, has been really useful to check if we’re still hitting target growth rates. I’m also able to compare the weight and growth of the cattle against the cost of the feed to make sure it’s cost-effective for my enterprise,” explains David.
David supplies Dovecote Park, where the maximum supply weight is 380kg deadweight. With regular weighing, David is able to avoid penalties and ensure cattle don’t go to slaughter overweight, as well as having the opportunity and control to reach the highest target weight.
“The weighing equipment has impacted on the health treatment of our cattle. We’ve now wormed all our cattle to the correct dose, instead of estimating as in previous years. By doing this, it’s not only letting us monitor the cost of treatment, but we’re reducing the risk of resistance to wormers on farm.
“We don’t use a lot of antibiotics on the cattle, but, similar to the wormers, we now administer them based on weights. Antibiotic resistance is a huge challenge to the industry and this change has helped us to play our part in reducing our impact,” says David.
Most medicine instructions state they should be given in a specific dose in relation to liveweight. It is more difficult to follow precise dosing instructions if weighing equipment is not available, but inaccurate dosing can lead to poor efficacy and antibiotic resistance, as well as reducing the duration of protection.
“Having this level of information has been a game changer and if I didn’t have access to it now I’d find it really difficult. We’ve managed to tighten up our finishing weights and have a positive impact on our health practices, which, as an industry, is something we should all be focused on. I’ve now seen the value that investing in weighing equipment can bring to an enterprise and wish I’d installed it sooner.”