Precision farming in Western Cape Agricultural Schools
22 May 2019
Six Agricultural Focus Schools in the Western Cape received state of the art animal handling facilities from the Western Cape Education Department
The automated and computerized facilities include weighing, spraying, dosing, inoculation and sorting equipment.
The equipment introduces learners to modern farming techniques and equipment. A farming practice that relies on record keeping and data gathering is essential when stud farming is practiced and also where each kilogram that is gained on a carcass is transformed into profit.
Some feedlots are prepared to pay a premium for animals that come with recorded lifetime data as it eliminates risk.
Each animal receives a unique ear tag with a sensor for identification purposes. Data like date of birth, parents, birth weight, wool, growth data, etc. are stored on data recording devices that is fully integrated with computerised management software. Daily weight gains are also collected via the weighing equipment.
Some schools also received lambing pen facilities where learners can monitor the lambing process and do all the data recording accurately. The learners will also get exposed to synchronise ewes and artificial insemination. In these environments the lambing percentage of a heard can be increased significantly.
The current National Sheep Farmer of the year is also using this system.
The learners will get exposed to a wide variety of livestock precision farming practices and the use of Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.
Three subjects that are presented at Agricultural Schools namely, Agricultural Management Practices, Agricultural Technology and Agricultural Sciences benefit from this facilities.
The Agricultural Management Practices learners work with the animals and data collection. The learners doing Agricultural Technology work with the technical aspect of the equipment like installation, working, maintenance and reparations.
Agricultural Sciences learners are exposed to the scientific aspect of farming namely, data analysis, feed rations, digestibility of feeds, digestibility coefficient, etc.
The same technology is being used by Stellenbosch University and Elsenburg Agricultural College. Students who will further their studies at these institutions will already have been exposed to this technology. Learners who do not study further would be in a very good position to get employment at farms and feedlots who use this technology or want to implement it.