Smart Sheep Help with Feed Research

A group of 80 lambs participated in a research trial at Lakeland College in the summer of 2014 and collected their own data!

The lambs, fitted with individual radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, were given the task of comparing two different rations for the finishing period before slaughter. The GrowSafe feeding system in the Livestock Research Centre at Lakeland College collected data about the amount of feed each lamb consumed daily, as well as their individual eating behaviour patterns.

The experiment was conducted for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. Susan Markus, a Livestock Research Scientist with Alberta Agriculture, designed the trial to validate SheepBytes® feeding recommendations. The purpose of the trial was to compare a standard barley finishing ration to one designed using the SheepBytes Ration Balancer. Alberta Agriculture would like to know if the growth of the feeder lambs correlates well with that predicted by SheepBytes, and to see the effect of nutrition and management on carcass grades. A second, similar trial is planned for 2015.

Larry Bingham, Ag Research Project Coordinator, noted “This trial had some interesting challenges. The GrowSafe system was originally designed for cattle, and had to be adapted for lambs. They needed a little boost to be able to reach into the feed troughs, and access to the feed trough had to be restricted to one lamb at a time. The lambs adapted very quickly to the system and certainly did their part in making the trial a success.”

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