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Scottish researchers team up with US university to improve beef production

Researchers from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) Hill and Mountain Research Centre are working with New Mexico State University (NMSU) on a multi-million dollar research project exploring how to use precision farming methods to improve beef cattle production in the United States.


The project is led by NMSU and has received $9m in funding from the US Department of Agriculture under the Sustainable Agricultural Systems programme. Working together, the teams of researchers will develop and deploy Internet of Things (IoT) hardware and associated technology at NMSU’s experimental rangeland research farm and commercial ranches across the American Southwest.


The technology, similar to that used at Kirkton and Auchtertyre farms in the Scottish Highlands, will use a low-power radio network to send information from sensors placed around the farms and on livestock so researchers can track grazing animals and collect information on environmental variables such as soil temperature, soil moisture content and water levels.


Davy McCracken, head of the Hill and Mountain Research Centre, points out that while the wet mountains of the Scottish Southern Highlands differ from the arid rangelands of the southwestern United States, the two regions share common challenges. 


“Both involve grazing livestock at low densities over large areas of relatively unproductive pastures,” said Mr McCracken, “with a combination of poor nutrition, pests, diseases and predators impacting adversely on both productivity and growth rates during the lambing and calving seasons.”


The long-term goals of the project are to increase profitability and productivity on ranches in the arid regions of the south-west; reduce cattle production losses due to weather and climate impacts; and improve water and nutrient use efficiency on these ranches and associated beef finishing systems in the Ogallala Aquifer region.


Image: Researchers will deploy technology at NMSU’s experimental range in the US. Credit: NMSU photo by Jay A. Rodman

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