Dafydd Davies, Tregaron
- Commercial 180 ha beef and sheep farm
- 500 pure Welsh Mountain ewes
- All lambs are sold finished, either direct to abattoir or via auction markets
Mr Davies runs a commercial 180 hectare beef and sheep farm, with a flock of 500 pure Welsh Mountain ewes. All lambs are finished, sold direct to Dunbia, and also through auction markets.
Mr Davies’ motivation for getting involved in the EID Recording project run by HCC was to gather detailed and consistent data on the performance of his flock to help with making management decisions. He was mindful of the changing requirements regarding animal traceability and keen to maximise the potential of EID for his business.
He chose to use a handheld reader plus software, as he wanted to do more than merely record movements, deaths and transfers, and wanted to gather and view information while he was working with the flock. Before he joined the project Mr Davies recorded basic information on his flock using pen and paper, then manually inputted that information onto the computer. However consistent data collection was difficult and finding the time to transfer data onto the computer and then analyse it was a challenge.
“I was concerned about how user friendly the handheld software was and was loathe to spend money on kit that I would likely get frustrated with", says Mr Davies, ”However, things have moved on since then. The support from the HCC project encouraged me to give it a go, and I have been delighted with the results."
Key features Mr Davies finds beneficial include the speed of the reader when working the flock, the presentation of the data on the screen, and the ability to add and save comments on individual animals.
"Every ewe is now on the database, and the initial work setting this up has really proved its worth. I was concerned that using EID would create work for me, but it is the exact opposite; I get better quality decision making information, more quickly, and I’m using the reader to help me undertake batch control, record medicine treatments and capture scanning results," says Mr Davies. He adds, "individual ewe data flashes up on the screen immediately, which means I can make instant, accurate decisions regarding culling and the use of a terminal sire."
Reflecting on his ‘user experience’ to-date he comments, "it took a bit of time to get used to the spreadsheets, but my brother – who has been using the same software for a while - was able to help out, and the over-the-phone supplier support is excellent. I would find a ‘next steps’ group training session useful, for tips and ideas from both the supplier and other farmers."
With an eye on improving profitability, Mr Davies is already considering how to make the technology really work for him, saying, "I am keen to use the kit to help assess individual grazing field performance based on liveweight gain."
Linking the reader up to the weighing scales electronically is an option, as well as developing a comprehensive medicines record. However, both of these involve investing in more technology, which is costly.
Mr Davies concludes, "The priority for the business at the moment is to weed out the underperforming ewes, link the lambs to the ewes when born, and assess liveweight gain. This will give me valuable performance information and help improve my profitability."