New SAC On-line Tool for Beef Farmers

UK - A new on-line SAC tool for farmers producing calves from beef suckler herds has the potential to raise returns by £80 per cow or £8,000 per hundred cows.
calendar icon 26 May 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Beef Suckler Cattle

SAC’s “Fertbench” system is the first service of its type for beef farmers and the first to allow them to anonymously compare their results with others and see where they can streamline their systems, lower their costs and increase their income. Fertbench is now open for business at

SAC developed Fertbench as a practical and easy to use way of measuring physical performance and herd efficiency from mating to weaning. Farmers record readily available herd data and produce a report highlighting the areas for improvement. It benchmarks the herd, year on year, against a range of different criteria. SAC has been piloting the system since October last year and is now ready to launch.

The Fertbench designers, Iain Riddell (Specialist Services Manager) and George Caldow (SAC Veterinary Services) devised suckler herd benchmarks in 2003. They have since become industry standards but their new on-line tool is another step forward, said Iain Riddell,

“Fertbench can help give farmers that wee push by identifying where they can do things better. For example by keeping their calving period more compact they save labour, get heavier weaning weights and more even batches to manage. The benefits are even greater if over 60% of the calves are born in the first three weeks.”

The programme uses data familiar to every beef farmer (e.g. bulling period, calving dates, cows not in calf and deaths). It sets a consistent standard and allows farmers to rank their operations or share results with vets or neighbours. It is possible to take the analysis even deeper.

“You can address problems like barren cows, bull fertility or difficult calvings," said Iain Riddell.

“For example many farmers don’t associate improved fertility with heavier calves at weaning but it all makes sense when you consider the extra “free “ weight gain through having early born calves at weaning or the sales.”

SAC consultants helped test the programme. There are already over 56 farms registered on the system spread across most parts of Scotland and North Wales. The internet has no boundaries and filters have been set up to allow farmers to benchmark with others in their country, region or postcode.

The Group Benchmarking feature has already proved popular, with four groups entering data to promote discussion at meetings. Interest has also been received from breed societies and supply companies keen to do something extra for their clients.

“At present we have 26 herds benchmarking spring 2010 calving and 14 for spring 2009 calvings, plus a smaller amount of autumn calving data,” said Iain Riddell.

“Results for 2010 spring calving show the median farm reared 88.5 calves per 100 cows/heifers to the bull against a target of 94 per cent, with the best performers rearing 100% and the poorest 73 per cent. Increasing the number of calves reared from 88 per cent to 94 per cent can improve margins by £32 per cow or £3200 annually for a 100 cow herd. Tightening the calving period and adding an extra 20kg to average calf weight reared can increase this by a further £45 a cow.”

“The service will cost £50 for a year's subscription which allows a farmer to enter up to three sets of herd data, for example spring, summer and autumn herds, or the previous year's data.”

The Fertbench Programme will be featured at the NBA Beef Expo event at Newark, Nottinghamshire on 26th May and the follow up Scottish NBA Beef Event at Corskie, Garmouth, Morayshire on 1st June.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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