How should agricultural research studies be chosen?

holwellcourtfarm

Member
NFFN Member
I have just listened to Monday's Farming Today. In it a researcher from Aberystwyth talked about research to measure how long ewes lie down for as a marker of impending lambing. He justified the project saying it would lead to technology to warn shepherds when a ewe was coming up to lambing. He was challenged that this has no value to most flocks as they already know all they need from tupping date and scanning. He then justified it saying it's common in dairy cattle and increasingly used in beef breeding herds.

My first thought was he clearly hadn't thought about it from the farmer viewpoint. Lambing is a full-on 24hr business in most flocks. He claimed it could aid staff planning but I couldn't help thinking he was fighting to justify his research budget.

Are such studies a good use of funds?

How should agricultural research studiy subjects be chosen and funded?

Clearly the researchers have a conflict of interest. They need research to justify their existence. In many sectors, not just agriculture, this leads to research with no application which then seeks a marketable application to justify itself.

Thoughts?
 

DaveGrohl

Member
Location
Cumbria
Not all cows lie down either.

The newspapers and media in general are rammed full of "no sh!t Sherlock" reports. The mind boggles as to how anyone thinks it's a good idea to finance these studies. Ag is no different although we can reasonably ask the question who is funding things that maybe aren't a good use of funds.
 

Bogweevil

Member
I have just listened to Monday's Fa... leads to research with no application which then seeks a marketable application to justify itself.

Thoughts?

Ask the Doc, rather than rely on the opinions of TFF: [email protected]

13 August 2021

Researchers at Aberystwyth University hope to be able to predict when sheep give birth after successfully proving a way of measuring for how long the animals lie down.

In a new research paper in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, Dr Manod Williams of the University demonstrates that small measuring devices called accelerometers fitted to the legs of sheep can be used to successfully estimate how long they lie down.

Despite the widespread farming of sheep, little is known about their resting habits.

The study found that the lying behaviour of pregnant sheep 10 days before lambing was associated with factors such as the number of expected lambs, their birth weight and sex.

Ewes that were managed to lamb indoors and carrying a single male lamb lay down for an hour less each day than those expecting female lambs. For ewes expecting twins indoors, the researchers also found that increases in the combined birth weight of the lambs meant less lying down.

The lamb’s gender did not affect the lying behaviour of sheep in the outdoor-lambing flock, but the birth weight of twins affected both the lying bout duration and the frequency of lying bouts of these ewes.

On average, the sheep that were studied lay down for around 12 to 13 hours a day, with those kept indoors lying for a little longer than those outside.

The study is part of efforts to develop precision livestock farming methods for the sheep sector, and to allow a better understanding of the behaviour of pregnant ewes.

These methods could help optimise facilities and stocking densities during important times in a shepherd’s calendar.

In addition, it is believed that this research will lead to predicting when sheep will give birth by identifying the factors that affect for how long they lie down.

Aberystwyth University’s Dr Williams, who led the research, commented:

“There is a lack of understanding about the factors affecting the lying behaviour of sheep: we need to better understand how much they should lie down per day, what constitutes normal, and which physiological states affect them.

“Lambing represents an important period in the production cycle for ensuring ewe comfort and welfare but relatively little is known about the behaviour of pregnant sheep. Often, shepherds are in increased contact with sheep during this time and this presents an opportunity to test the feasibility of using these activity monitoring techniques.

“Lying behaviour has been shown to be a highly valuable metric of behaviour in other species. But, to date, no exploratory analyses on the lying behaviour of pregnant sheep have been undertaken using accelerometers.”

Dr Williams added:

“This information will be useful to better understand the behaviour of sheep particularly during times of increased stress such as lambing. Further development of integrated systems on farms will provide farmers with the information necessary to make management decisions at the level of the individual animal as well as at flock or herd level. This research also takes us a step closer to being able to predict with detail when ewes will give birth.”

The study was conducted at two farms – one in Aberystwyth University’s Fferm Gogerddan and another at Coleg Cambria’s Llysfasi farm in Ruthin, north Wales.

The study was part of the ‘PreciseAg’ project which researches precision livestock farming in order to improve the sustainability of the Welsh agricultural industry. It was funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

Lying behaviour of housed and outdoor-managed pregnant sheep​

ManodWilliamsaChelsea N.DavisaDewi LlyrJonesabEmma S.DaviesaPenelopeVasinaaDavidCutressaMichael T.RoseacRhys AledJonesaHefin WynWilliamsa

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105370Get rights and content

Highlights​



Sheep lying behaviour in housed and extensive systems studied using accelerometers.

1-min sampling interval provides reliable estimates of lying behaviours.

Lying measures of Mule ewes associated with foetal numbers and twin birth weight.

Lying measures of Welsh Mountain ewes associated with twin birth weight.

Lying measures show potential for monitoring sheep behaviour.

Abstract​

Lying behaviour has been shown to be highly valuable in supporting the productivity and welfare of cattle. The aim of this experiment was to investigate the effect of biological and physical factors on the lying behaviour of sheep. Ninety-six Bluefaced Leicester x Welsh Mountain crossbred (Mule) ewes managed to lamb indoors, and 80 Welsh Mountain (WM) ewes managed to lamb at grass were used for the study. Acceleration values were collected for the two flocks from accelerometers fitted vertically to the outside of the rear right leg and set to record at 1-min intervals for at least 14 d prior to parturition. Ewes were simultaneously recorded using video equipment to identify lambing and to verify predictions of lying (total lying time, mean lying bout duration and total number of lying bouts) using data collected from 10 randomly selected ewes from the indoor flock on day -10 prior to lambing. Linear regression was used to evaluate predicted behaviours with video footage. Predictions of total lying time (R2 ≥ 0.99; P > 0.05 for slope = 1, intercept = 0), mean lying bout duration (R2 ≥ 0.99; P > 0.05 for slope = 1, intercept = 0) and total number of lying bouts (R2 ≥ 0.98; P > 0.05 for slope = 1, intercept = 0) were strongly associated with video footage (P < 0.001) demonstrating that a 1-min sampling interval provides reliable estimates of ewe lying behaviours. Measures of lying (mean daily lying time, mean lying bout duration and mean daily lying bouts) were calculated for all ewes using averages taken across days -10, -9 and -8 prior to lambing. Linear regression was used to test for effects of independent variables (pregnancy scan result (single- or twin-bearing), ewe age, ewe BCS, lambing ease, lamb sex and lamb birth weight) on each measure of lying. Significant associations (P < 0.05) were found between measures of lying and pregnancy scan result, ewe age, sex of singleton lambs and twin birth weight for housed, Mule ewes. Only ewe age and twin birth weight were significantly associated (P < 0.05) with measures of lying for WM ewes managed at grass. This information could help guide further research on sheep behaviour for management purposes (e.g., to optimise stocking densities and welfare for pregnant ewes). Further work should also consider evaluating measures of lying as proxies for imminent parturition.

 

Turnip

Member
Problem with research, a lot of the time you don't know what the beneficial outcome will be. You start off researching one thing and end up discovering another. So as long as someone is willing to foot the bill let them get on with it.

Just look at the Ig® Nobel Prize, most if not all winners will have you go WTF but all have their reason.
 

holwellcourtfarm

Member
NFFN Member
Ask the Doc, rather than rely on the opinions of TFF: [email protected]

13 August 2021

Researchers at Aberystwyth University hope to be able to predict when sheep give birth after successfully proving a way of measuring for how long the animals lie down.

In a new research paper in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, Dr Manod Williams of the University demonstrates that small measuring devices called accelerometers fitted to the legs of sheep can be used to successfully estimate how long they lie down.

Despite the widespread farming of sheep, little is known about their resting habits.

The study found that the lying behaviour of pregnant sheep 10 days before lambing was associated with factors such as the number of expected lambs, their birth weight and sex.

Ewes that were managed to lamb indoors and carrying a single male lamb lay down for an hour less each day than those expecting female lambs. For ewes expecting twins indoors, the researchers also found that increases in the combined birth weight of the lambs meant less lying down.

The lamb’s gender did not affect the lying behaviour of sheep in the outdoor-lambing flock, but the birth weight of twins affected both the lying bout duration and the frequency of lying bouts of these ewes.

On average, the sheep that were studied lay down for around 12 to 13 hours a day, with those kept indoors lying for a little longer than those outside.

The study is part of efforts to develop precision livestock farming methods for the sheep sector, and to allow a better understanding of the behaviour of pregnant ewes.

These methods could help optimise facilities and stocking densities during important times in a shepherd’s calendar.

In addition, it is believed that this research will lead to predicting when sheep will give birth by identifying the factors that affect for how long they lie down.

Aberystwyth University’s Dr Williams, who led the research, commented:

“There is a lack of understanding about the factors affecting the lying behaviour of sheep: we need to better understand how much they should lie down per day, what constitutes normal, and which physiological states affect them.

“Lambing represents an important period in the production cycle for ensuring ewe comfort and welfare but relatively little is known about the behaviour of pregnant sheep. Often, shepherds are in increased contact with sheep during this time and this presents an opportunity to test the feasibility of using these activity monitoring techniques.

“Lying behaviour has been shown to be a highly valuable metric of behaviour in other species. But, to date, no exploratory analyses on the lying behaviour of pregnant sheep have been undertaken using accelerometers.”

Dr Williams added:

“This information will be useful to better understand the behaviour of sheep particularly during times of increased stress such as lambing. Further development of integrated systems on farms will provide farmers with the information necessary to make management decisions at the level of the individual animal as well as at flock or herd level. This research also takes us a step closer to being able to predict with detail when ewes will give birth.”

The study was conducted at two farms – one in Aberystwyth University’s Fferm Gogerddan and another at Coleg Cambria’s Llysfasi farm in Ruthin, north Wales.

The study was part of the ‘PreciseAg’ project which researches precision livestock farming in order to improve the sustainability of the Welsh agricultural industry. It was funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

Lying behaviour of housed and outdoor-managed pregnant sheep​

ManodWilliamsaChelsea N.DavisaDewi LlyrJonesabEmma S.DaviesaPenelopeVasinaaDavidCutressaMichael T.RoseacRhys AledJonesaHefin WynWilliamsa

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105370Get rights and content

Highlights​



Sheep lying behaviour in housed and extensive systems studied using accelerometers.

1-min sampling interval provides reliable estimates of lying behaviours.

Lying measures of Mule ewes associated with foetal numbers and twin birth weight.

Lying measures of Welsh Mountain ewes associated with twin birth weight.

Lying measures show potential for monitoring sheep behaviour.

Abstract​

Lying behaviour has been shown to be highly valuable in supporting the productivity and welfare of cattle. The aim of this experiment was to investigate the effect of biological and physical factors on the lying behaviour of sheep. Ninety-six Bluefaced Leicester x Welsh Mountain crossbred (Mule) ewes managed to lamb indoors, and 80 Welsh Mountain (WM) ewes managed to lamb at grass were used for the study. Acceleration values were collected for the two flocks from accelerometers fitted vertically to the outside of the rear right leg and set to record at 1-min intervals for at least 14 d prior to parturition. Ewes were simultaneously recorded using video equipment to identify lambing and to verify predictions of lying (total lying time, mean lying bout duration and total number of lying bouts) using data collected from 10 randomly selected ewes from the indoor flock on day -10 prior to lambing. Linear regression was used to evaluate predicted behaviours with video footage. Predictions of total lying time (R2 ≥ 0.99; P > 0.05 for slope = 1, intercept = 0), mean lying bout duration (R2 ≥ 0.99; P > 0.05 for slope = 1, intercept = 0) and total number of lying bouts (R2 ≥ 0.98; P > 0.05 for slope = 1, intercept = 0) were strongly associated with video footage (P < 0.001) demonstrating that a 1-min sampling interval provides reliable estimates of ewe lying behaviours. Measures of lying (mean daily lying time, mean lying bout duration and mean daily lying bouts) were calculated for all ewes using averages taken across days -10, -9 and -8 prior to lambing. Linear regression was used to test for effects of independent variables (pregnancy scan result (single- or twin-bearing), ewe age, ewe BCS, lambing ease, lamb sex and lamb birth weight) on each measure of lying. Significant associations (P < 0.05) were found between measures of lying and pregnancy scan result, ewe age, sex of singleton lambs and twin birth weight for housed, Mule ewes. Only ewe age and twin birth weight were significantly associated (P < 0.05) with measures of lying for WM ewes managed at grass. This information could help guide further research on sheep behaviour for management purposes (e.g., to optimise stocking densities and welfare for pregnant ewes). Further work should also consider evaluating measures of lying as proxies for imminent parturition.

"Further development of integrated systems on farms will provide farmers with the information necessary to make management decisions at the level of the individual animal as well as at flock or herd level. This research also takes us a step closer to being able to predict with detail when ewes will give birth.”

Scientists may not have published studies on this before but I bet observant shepherds have known this for years. It just seems aimed at creating a marketable piece of tech to me....

In cows, where calving often covers 6 weeks or more and peaks at perhaps 10 calving in a 24 hour period there is some value in a calving indicator device. Lambing, in typical flocks, is so much more intense that I fail to see any value as the flock is supervised 24/7 anyway.
 
I think we can't know if the information discovered will lead to further uses for it, so from that respect, I don't have an issue with rather obscure research, however, I think the sphere of agriculture, there are lots of areas that would be of high importance, I don't know if they are presently being researched? I would like to see further research in how to increase carbon sequestration in grazing land, what happens to the carbon held in the soil with different management practices? What is the energy footprint of different farming systems (organic, regenerative, conventional etc) so we could as a country decide what we wanted to prioritise and it's implications (food security, exporting environmental degradation, making he poor in the world poorer so we can import food etc).
 

Turnip

Member
Most universities are usually looking for research subjects so if you are willing to aid them they usually jump at the opportunity for graduate students. So any good topics for research you have send them to your local ag educational institute.
 

primmiemoo

Member
Location
Devon
I think we can't know if the information discovered will lead to further uses for it, so from that respect, I don't have an issue with rather obscure research, however, I think the sphere of agriculture, there are lots of areas that would be of high importance, I don't know if they are presently being researched? I would like to see further research in how to increase carbon sequestration in grazing land, what happens to the carbon held in the soil with different management practices? What is the energy footprint of different farming systems (organic, regenerative, conventional etc) so we could as a country decide what we wanted to prioritise and it's implications (food security, exporting environmental degradation, making he poor in the world poorer so we can import food etc).

If it's of interest, the research at Rothamstead North Wyke might be right down your lane. They're too modest, imv, but there's excellent work out there. I came back from a talk in a tent in a field on a wet day given by one of their academics, feeling glad that they exist. It was the first time I'd heard that research had shown there to be no need to reduce farmed ruminant numbers for any climate change reasons.
 

Agrivator

Member
I know that ewes carrying triplets will lie in all sorts of positions to try to get a bit of relief.

It's no wonder. Three lambs @ 4 kg plus the same in placenta and fluids comes to 24 kg. That's like carrying a bag of sheep nuts around plus a belly full of haylage and concentrates.
 

primmiemoo

Member
Location
Devon
I know that ewes carrying triplets will lie in all sorts of positions to try to get a bit of relief.

It's no wonder. Three lambs @ 4 kg plus the same in placenta and fluids comes to 24 kg. That's like carrying a bag of sheep nuts around plus a belly full of haylage and concentrates.

Apparently we need to buy and apply a clever gadget to the ewe to show that, though. I've spoken to enough suckler producers to know that gadgetry is no substitute for keeping a literal eye on things.
 
This type of research is already used in the dairy industry commercially and has many benefits, especially round rumeman activity when a disease is apparent and calving. It will have saved those who use it a fortune in medicines and lost production, as well as a very accurate calving aid. getting information early is key, as opposed to waiting to see the symptoms.

Vetvice in Holland are experts in animal activity (dairy) and train people all over the World, so all is positive.

So it's proven, so why not sheep ?
 
Apparently we need to buy and apply a clever gadget to the ewe to show that, though. I've spoken to enough suckler producers to know that gadgetry is no substitute for keeping a literal eye on things.

The problem with the ' eye ' is it's too late, having information before you see the symptoms is key. This can only be provided by body activity missed by the eye.
 
First I would say it’s not entirely accurate, I’m sure I’m going to be told I’m wrong but I’ve watched a few sheep giving birth. Also the need to purchase expensive collars etc just doesn’t add up with sheep, due to number of animals and also value of off spring.

We are constantly told money is limited and yet they are always spunking cash on pointless stuff.
 
First I would say it’s not entirely accurate, I’m sure I’m going to be told I’m wrong but I’ve watched a few sheep giving birth. Also the need to purchase expensive collars etc just doesn’t add up with sheep, due to number of animals and also value of off spring.

We are constantly told money is limited and yet they are always spunking cash on pointless stuff.
I think you have highlighted the biggest issue with using this research, do you have 2000 sheep that lamb outside? And a "tight" lambing period. 2000 leg pedometers would cost a lot, be difficult to monitor, sheep number 789 is just about to start lambing, where is she? In that 30 acre paddock with another 1000 ewes!

I have read that one person can look after 400 ewes lambing outside with drift lambing, but I bet they couldn't if they were busy watching the Ipad.
 

holwellcourtfarm

Member
NFFN Member
I think you have highlighted the biggest issue with using this research, do you have 2000 sheep that lamb outside? And a "tight" lambing period. 2000 leg pedometers would cost a lot, be difficult to monitor, sheep number 789 is just about to start lambing, where is she? In that 30 acre paddock with another 1000 ewes!

I have read that one person can look after 400 ewes lambing outside with drift lambing, but I bet they couldn't if they were busy watching the Ipad.
That's my point. I can see the benefit to the research team but what real benefit is there for average sheep producers?
 

bluebell

Member
do something practical, are is that to easy? couple of suggestions a trial of the use of grass slitters to see if they benifit the grass by increasing the amount grown, and soil health, someone design please a cattle watertrough thats got all the pipework protected in the design and dosnt need any sort of stand? Wormers are they needed can a pasture mix sown with certain plants have a natural worming effect? people say so but has there been any practical studies to show this?
 

Update on the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot

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Update on the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot

Written by Lisa Applin

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In July, we opened the applications window for farmers to join our Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is 1 of the 3 new environmental land management schemes. It sits alongside the future Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes.

Through the Sustainable Farming Incentive, farmers will be paid for environmentally sustainable actions – ones that are simple to do and do not require previous agri-environment scheme experience.

We are piloting the scheme to...
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