Herd Advance, the Aberdeenshire digital agri-technology business which won a prestigious innovation award for its integrated cattle monitoring and handling system, has explained the development of its innovative Stockman system.
Murdoch Duncan and Jilly Grant are the team behind Herd Advance which won a silver award at this year’s Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland’s (RHASS) technical innovation awards.
Their system aims to help farmers safely monitor and handle their cattle.
The Stockman prototype has successfully been trialled on Murdoch’s family farm near Insch, which is home to a herd of 100 suckler cows, and the couple is preparing to offer the system for sale to other farmers towards the start of next year, following final design completion.
“Murdoch has had the idea for the Stockman system in his head for a number of years – from working daily with the cattle he saw the need for an integrated monitoring and handling system,” said Ms Grant.
“There are a number of systems out there that can do parts of the process, but there wasn’t a single system that could monitor, handle and sort cattle without manual involvement.”
The system, which can be used both indoors and outdoors, operates using electronic identification (EID) tags on cattle. It comprises a water trough in a crate with a weigh-scale and a thermal imaging camera. Every time an animal goes for a drink its weight, the amount of water it drinks, and its temperature is recorded.
The system then allows the animal to exit through one of four gates, giving farmers the option to let the animal go back to its original pen or one of three other pens depending on the criteria decided by the farmer and applied through the smartphone app or by the system’s own smart alerting abilities.
The couple has successfully used the system to wean calves from their mothers, draw cattle for market based on a specific weight criteria selected, and more generally to monitor the performance and health of their animals.
Ms Grant said improved farmer safety was a major benefit of the system.
“One of the key issues in our industry, and in particular in working with livestock, is the lack of available labour and people who are willing to work with livestock,” she said.
Mr Duncan said: “What surprised us in developing and testing the Stockman was just how relaxed and stress-free the cattle are with it.”
Herd Advance is now working with ScotEID, the national body which manages the database for recording animal movements in Scotland, to integrate Stockman with their database.