Sheep ID - herdyfund technology for hill farms

It’s annoying getting caught without ID, but it’s not something most sheep have to worry about. In addition to their regular identification ear tags, they are being issued with electronic versions that allow farmers to distinguish between individual sheep. The herdy fund recently awarded a grant of £1,000 to the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association (HSBA) so that they could buy a hand held scanner and associated software to read the ear tags. The technology will help the Association as they build up a comprehensive database of thousands of Herdwick sheep spread across hundreds of hill farms.

During the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak there was a serious concern that the concentration of Herdwicks in the Lake District could mean that the breed could be decimated if extensive culling became necessary in the area. The HSBA’s database which records exactly where Herdwicks are farmed will provide a basis for protecting their genes, to ensure that the breed survives in the future. And recording individual sheep identities will help the Association plan sound breeding programmes which ensure a strong and healthy breed in the future, with a view to developing new and profitable markets for Herdwick sheep and produce.

HSBA secretary Amanda Carson tried out the new scanner at Turner Hall Farm, which is owned and farmed by HSBA member Anthony Hartley. Amanda said, “The technology will make it much quicker for the Association to register Herdwick tups that meet the breed standard when we visit sales, shows and individual farms. This technology isn’t cheap, so is beyond the reach of most individual hill farmers”.

The herdy fund was set up to provide grants and funding to enterprises and organisations promoting the conservation of the Herdwick sheep and rural lifestyle associated with upland fell farming in Cumbria and the Lakes. Here at herdy we are delighted to be able to give something back to the region where we live and work, and which inspires us. The Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association represents many unsung heroes who farm often remote inhospitable places. We hope the scanner will help this traditional farming system to have a future.