Martin and Jane Kennedy and their three daughters, farm at Lurgan, a 1700 acre beef and sheep farm close to Aberfeldy in the stunning Perthshire hills.
The couple run 600 ewes and 35 suckler cows on the farm which extends to 2500 feet above sea level. The ewes are a mixture of Beltex cross Bleu de Maine and pure Blackface and Cheviots.
Despite the beautiful scenery and seemingly idyllic lifestyle, hill farming is one of the toughest jobs around. Just this year, Martin hosted well known television weather presenter Cat Cubie at the farm to explain to her just how recent weather had affected his life and business. Martin has been recording rain levels for more than 12 years and the combined total of 2011/12, rainfall on the farm reached nearly 100 inches, far higher than average. In spring 2013, snow also caused a huge amount of disruption on the farm, making Martin and his family work even harder just to keep animals alive.
So when calving time arrived this spring, Martin was keen to find a way to take some of the stress out of his life. Normally, during calving and lambing periods, farmers must keep a close eye on the calving and lambing ewes all day and then make several trips to the sheds throughout the night to see what is happening and if animals need any help. Like looking after a newborn baby, this is exhausting work and, unlike new parents, farmers have to go through it every single spring, year on year!
But 2013 was different for Martin and Jane. The Kennedys have teamed up with Chris Cotton who runs Self Guard, based in Broughty Ferry, a company which specialises in on farm technology and can provide state of the art monitoring equipment. For some farming families this means that they can improve security on their farm but for others, like Martin and Jane, it means that they can monitor their animals from a distance using the system.
“Chris has installed us a superb system whereby I can stay in our warm farmhouse at night and monitor the cows calving remotely on my iPad. If everything in the shed is quiet and as it should be, I can go back to sleep and check again in a few hours, saving the half mile trip in the cold night to go and check on the animals in person. Using the system I can even switch the lights in the shed on or off so that I can see everything that I would be able to if I was there myself.
“Obviously, if I see any problems on screen then I do still have to get my wellies on and go and check, but having the system means that I have greatly reduced the number of trips I have to make to the shed each night. This has improved the amount of sleep I can get, which helps with overall productivity and it has also saved me quite a bit of money in fuel, with fewer trips back and forwards to our farm sheds which are quite a distance from the farmhouse.
“I can also be away from home which in previous years I could never do and still be able to monitor the system, all I need is a wi-fi signal and dash home if I see any problems.
Chris Cotton from Self Guard admits to being a perfectionist when it comes to installing and maintaining systems and each system is designed on an entirely bespoke basis to fit the needs of the farmer and of the location.
Martin is certainly glad he made the decision to install:
“Chris installed our entire system in just over a day and since that day I’ve had no problems at all. I’m not particularly technically minded and yet I can operate the system no bother. Chris set it all up for me and it’s very easy to manage. I probably wouldn’t have got an iPad if it wasn’t for this, but I’m discovering that it has so many other uses as well that it’s proven to be a great business investment.
“In particular, I think Chris’s system is perfect for single handed farmers who, I know from experience, wish they had eyes in the back of their heads, but who can now watch their herds and flocks using the most modern of technology. With calving and lambing, it always seems to be the times when you don’t check often enough that disaster strikes but now that risk has been reduced considerably. In fact, averting just one disaster will mean that the system has paid for itself.
“Finding Chris and installing his system has greatly reduced the element of worry at calving time and once calving has finished the same system is used for some of the lambing ewes, again in faraway sheds which has improved my quality of life no end.
“I didn’t install the system with security in mind, but an added bonus of the cameras is that I can easily turn them around to see any vehicles that are approaching the shed so if I did have any concerns over people arriving on farm uninvited then I can keep an eye on them too.
“The decision to work with Self Guard has been phenomenal value for money and I would highly recommend to other farmers that they embrace this new technology and make their lives easier. Give Chris a call!”
Self Guard specialises in the installation of bespoke systems for monitoring both security and livestock on farms. Contact Chris Cotton for more information.