Trailblazing Norfolk sheep gets fitted with hi-tech tracking device
A sheep grazing in a Norfolk field may hold the key to a hi-tech future for flock monitoring after being fitted with a satellite tracking device.
The trial at Honingham Thorpe Farms, outside Norwich, aims to test the technology’s ability to monitor livestock movements and spot abnormal behaviour which could provide an early warning of health issues.
The Movetech Telemetry system, developed by University of East Anglia scientist Dr Aldina Franco, is based on a lightweight solar-powered tracking unit which uses the mobile phone network to transmit GPS data back to the farm.
Data from the sheep tracker will be on display in the innovation hub at the Royal Norfolk Show later this month, where visitors can watch the sheep’s movements and compare it with the animal’s regular daily routine.
The technology has already been used to track birds for wildlife research and conservation projects, but its potential uses in agriculture could include monitoring eating habits, identifying lameness in cattle, and eating patterns which could inform the best system for setting out fencing.
Honingham Thorpe Farms manager Jamie Lockhart said: “We’ve been asked by the UEA to test this new technology, so we are not entirely sure what applications it could be useful for at the moment, but one thought is this device will actually show when the animal is grazing, when it is moving, and when it is lying down.
“As we start to build up a database of information we can maybe learn something from there in terms of when we need to move fence lines.
“Potentially, if have a problem with sheep worrying, we can see if stock becomes alarmed for any reason, and if they are moving around more than they should do it might instigate us to come and check more regularly.
“Really it is just a case of gathering data and once we have had a chance to analyse that data we can see what applications it might be useful for us.”
The Movetech Telemetry system will be one of many displays at the Royal Norfolk Show’s innovation hub on June 27 and 28, demonstrating how modern technology can provide valuable alerts and data to help farmers manage their animals, soils and crops more efficiently.