Friday, 18 December 2009

On the 31st December 2009 new EU regulations come into place about the individual identification of sheep and goats. The ultimate aim will be to have, I think, every sheep and goat with an electric identification device (EID) locked about it's person within the next 5 years. Various stages of this legislation are being fazed in over the next 3 years but some batch movements will still be allowed under the system, which ultimately is not s step far enough.

To that end we have decided to go down the fully EID route for all of our breeding sheep starting today. Each and every ewe and ram (they actually are already tagged), will have to have two ear tags, one yellow (with the EID) and the other a colour of our choice, except red and black. The black ear tags are reserved to indicate where a bolus EID is being used and a red tag indicates a replacement tag, where the original one has been lost and the animal is not on the holding (farm) of birth. This all has to be done before the animal is 9 months old or earlier if and when it leaves the farm.

Today we tagged up some ewe lambs that were born earlier this year, they had a yellow tag, with the EID inserted into their right ear and a blue tag (management tag) inserted into their left ear. We then scanned the tag, added their breed details and date of birth (roughly), into the handheld reader and then uploaded the details into the computer program. We will be able to use lots of this information when we are sorting lambs for market, checking on their growth rates, and selecting which ewes to breed from and which ewes to cull out. The equipment has been quite expensive to set up and purchase but it will pay for itself with far more accurate sheep records, providing detailed management information for Tod that can be easily carried around the farm. EID 'ing' the whole flock and lambs will enable all of the killing lambs to have their tags read at the abattoir which will then tell us which rams and ewes are providing the lambs with the best carcases and therefore where our breeding should be going. Right now we don't have enough information to make too many details decisions but over time t hat will change.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Taking it to a Higher Level

As part of the on going investigations as to whether we should be getting involved in the Higher Level Stewardship a team of archaeologists have been looking at the farms archaeology. They have been trialing a system called 'COSMIC' which is based on a risk assessment to the archaeology. The study looks at each of the sights on the farm and tries to work out whether or not the current or past farming practices have or will put the archaeology in danger. The study looks at the field slope, soil depth, passed cropping and passed cultivation techniques to work out the potential risk. It also looks at futures plans for cropping and cultivation. The the system is then taken outside and hand dug test pits are dug to test the theory from the office. So far most of the test pits have come up with plenty of protection for the archaeology and no harm has been done through the farming practices. We will await the final report as the team still have a few sites left to look at. It any of the sites are shown to be at risk we may have to think about putting an HLS option on that land to protect it. These options could include using minimum tillage establishment techniques or grassing the field down in the most at risk cases. We wait to see! The test pit here is in a field of beans where they were looking to find an old roadway and various enclosures. the darker soil is the cultivation depth and the lighter soil is the subsoil, going down further in the top left corner goes even further down to the base rock layer where the archaeology would be found. In this scenario there is plenty of soil to buffer the archaeology from any of our farming operations.