March 2015 – Judging inspired new products

I signed off last month wondering why life had got so complicated, and I start this month thinking the same. I’ve just come off the phone to a very helpful lady at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), but unfortunately I still can’t complete the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) registration.

I understand why everything is moving online, and it does make sense, but it’s still a pain at first. I sympathise with the RPA lady; even we get calls at BPEX starting “My dad has asked me to call,” that often end with “I now know why he asked!”

During the past month, the team has all been out and about at meetings helping the knowledge transfer managers. Thank you to all those who came along; it’s one of the better sides of the job, finding out what you want and trying to help. So please keep the enquiries coming and we’ll see what we can do.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience judging new livestock products at the Lamma Show. There was quite a diverse range, and it’s surprising how long you can discuss the penetration of tanalising fluid into a fence post or the grinding of baler knives!

What was really inspiring was that entrants had thought of an idea, or experienced a problem, gone and produced a solution, and were now promoting that in the market place. It was great to see so many “can do” attitudes. It’s important for us to do robust, practical research that gives knowledge or technology that can be fully applied on farm.

The cross-industry Greenpig project that BPEX and other AHDB sectors took part in is an example. We’re hearing that the planted area of peas and beans will be up, and triticale is another crop of interest for inclusion in pig feed. A related HGCA trial is coming to an end and we’re told the results are looking promising. We’ll find more out next week when we meet with those involved.

Back to Lamma, and there were two products that were of particular interest. One was a remote-controlled electrified gate that was almost self-contained energy wise. The big USP was that shocks were not continuously pulsed, but only started when contact was made. The shock was then ramped up as contact continued and stopped when a result is achieved. No doubt this product could find a place around the perimeter of outdoor pig units.

Another very neatly packaged device, which looked like a large green computer mouse was a device that gets strapped to a cow’s tail. The product measures twitching and contractions and then processes this information to send a text message to say that calving will start within the hour.

It then sends a second “get out of bed” message two hours later if the calving signals haven’t decreased. It was a well-designed, packaged and cost-effective product and I was told that 1,000 units were sold in Ireland within a month of sales starting.

It just goes to show that offering the right product, at the right price, where the benefit stands out, can pay off.

> Nigel Penlington joined BPEX in 2004 and is the organisation’s environment programme manager. He specialises in environmental issues affecting the UK pig industry and production technology

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