by Julie Finch, HCC corporate strategy and policy manager
A GROUND-BREAKING sheep industry project encompassing more than a quarter of the Welsh ewe flock has achieved radical, permanent and cost effective positive change and paved the way for a new age of farming in Wales. That was the verdict from an independent assessment of impacts from the Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) managed project “Removing the Barriers to Electronic Recording of Sheep Flocks in Wales”. A total of 1,716 Welsh farm businesses participated and, of these, only 103 (six per cent) had some previous experience in using EID. Around nine in every 10 participants said it helped them understand more about the benefits of EID recording, EID equipment and its uses and helped them understand how to get the most from EID equipment. The project was “well organised and delivered and exceeded its target for participants,” said specialist independent project assessors Brookdale Consulting. “There is strong evidence to suggest that EID recording will enable these producers to significantly improve their flock productivity and overall labour productivity for the benefit of Welsh agriculture,” they concluded. The tremendous take-up and delivery was achieved in just nine months from November last year but by the end of the project in August 2015, an incredible 92 per cent of the participants had started to use EID to record their flocks. Participants provided extremely positive feedback on the value of the information provided; 93 per cent of participants said it was good or very good in helping them understand more about the benefits of EID recording; 90 per cent said it was good or very good in helping them understand more about EID equipment and its uses; 88 per cent said it was good or very good in relation to helping them to understand how to get the most from EID equipment. The majority of participants had used EID for tag reading and recording movements. At the end of the project, farmers were keen to learn more; training opportunities, practical on-farm events and discussion groups were highlighted as useful ways to exchange information and ideas. Thirty per cent said they were also planning to make use of it during the next lambing season to record lamb performance, to collate health information and for recording deaths/lamb losses. A series of case studies in which ten of the project farmers share their experiences is available at www.ewemanage-IT.org.uk. Two new booklets have been produced to encourage other farmers to try EID recording. This project was funded by the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013, by the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Union. It was an enhancement of the Technology Development and Transfer to Practice, Communication and Training project managed by HCC.