Data is ‘simple but important’ route to net zero

Recording and using data can bring huge productivity and efficiency gains for beef and sheep farms, believes James Wright, farmer and UK representative for the Breedr app.

Conversation around agriculture achieving net zero focus on reducing emissions but also often mention producing less. James Wright, Exmoor farmer and UK country manager for Breedr believes that shouldn’t be the case. “The way I look at it is how much are we producing and how efficiently are we producing it?”

Speaking at the RASE Journey to Net Zero event he said understanding efficiencies was more challenging in the beef and sheep sector than dairy due to a general lack of information about production. “In dairy, twice a day every day, we get a measure of how much milk we are producing. Only about 40% of beef and sheep farms regularly weigh their animals and 60% never do.

“That means they only take a measure of how much are they producing on their farm once a year at calving or lambing and then once every two years when they kill those animals. That's a huge amount of information we are lacking and it creates a productivity gap.”

The insight from using a system such as the Breedr app to record data including livestock weights, movements, medicine use and breeding information can bring huge gains in performance, he said. “The average daily live weight gain on a beef farm is 600g/day but the average on Breedr – which is a self-selecting group of farmers who may be at the top end – is double that at 1.25kg.”
Key performance indicators were a useful way of measuring and benchmarking, he said. For breeding these were age at first calving, number of empty cows and then age at slaughter and all played a big role in efficiency and sustainability of a farm.

Keeping detailed data is also crucial evidence of how farmers are reducing emissions. “If the individual farmer themselves won't record the data, how do they know how to share it up the chain?

“The way we help farmers to decarbonise, when it comes to breeding, is just recording data. It's so simple but it's important.”