Farmer uses thermal technology to reduce lamb loss at site near Stevenage
- Credit: Archant
A farmer working on land near Stevenage has introduced thermal imaging software to help reunite lost lambs with their mums and reduce fatalities.
Rob Hodgkins – who owns and runs the 1,700-acre Cherry Farm in Ardeley – is one of the many farmers embracing technology with new ways to improve efficiency.
He uses the rugged Cat S60 smartphone, with a built-in thermal imaging camera, which he says has revolutionised monitoring his flock of 1,500 ewes and their offspring.
An average of 15 per cent of lambs are lost on British farms each year due to predators, hypothermia after being separated from their mothers, or other health complications. For many farmers reducing such losses has traditionally been a huge challenge.
Since he started using the software, Rob managed to save a lamb after it was seperated from its mother.
He said: “Thankfully you can also use thermal imaging to identify lambs separated at night. We had a situation where a dog got among the sheep and the lambs were scattered everywhere.
“We tried to leave them alone to mother up, but realised later there was one stuck out on its own. Normally we would have had to get torches, headlights and trucks to try and find it. Instead we were able to go out very discretely with thermal imaging – using the smartphone – find the lamb and bring it to safety.”
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Although the lamb was still alive, with its temperature showing close to hypothermia on the Cat S60, Rob took it to the farm’s ‘intensive care’ unit to recuperate.
After a glucose shot and a good night’s rest, the lamb was successfully reunited with its mother the following morning.
He said: “Technology is changing farming in a massive way and my Cat S60 is a tremendous asset. I use the thermal imaging camera, which a few years ago would have cost thousands of pounds, to help me find and identify hypothermic lambs.
“I also use it as an instant visual indicator to ensure I get the right temperature of the glucose in the syringe which I inject to warm them up again.
“Technology allows two people, me and Jo, to run the farm. As well as thermal imaging it’s stuff like WhatsApp groups, Google Images, maps, satellite imagery. These are things that years ago we would never have been able to do, but now it is second nature to us. We couldn’t run our farm without it.”