NZ Farmer - Farmer uses drone and dirtbikes to keep pregnant ewes on their feet

Written by Piers Fuller

Every time young would-be farmer Cameron Wyeth heaves a heavily pregnant ewe off its back he knows it's four lives he's saving.

His dad Matt uses the best of old and new technology to get this important job done with his prize ewes that are laid-up cast in the sun.

 The Wyeths have had the drone for three years. It didn't take them long to  understood what an important tool it could be on their farm nestled in the foothills of the Tararua Ranges west of Masterton.

For this particular job 11-year-old Cameron, armed with a two-way radio, jumped on his 80cc motorbike and took off to the flat paddocks where the most valued animals on the farm were kept. His dad used the drone to spot cast ewes directed Cameron to set them to rights.

Each pregnant highlander ewe is just about ready for lambing. It is at this time they are most vulnerable to becoming cast – lying on their backs unable to get up.

"They are so heavily pregnant that sometimes they lie down for a scratch or a sleep and can't get back up. They are all carrying triplets so they are pretty huge and their big bellies can stop them rolling back over," Lynley Wyeth said.

Without assistance the sheep can die within a few days.

As well as an animal welfare issue  it could be a costly loss to the farm – especially with the current healthy stock prices.

Cameron enjoyed the chance to head out on his motorbike and got the satisfaction of knowing he had looked after the animals.

"It's a good feeling because you have just saved a couple of lives," he said.

The farmers use the drone two to three times a day at certain times of the year. 

Its high perspective lets them see areas that they might miss from ground level and it can be good tool to muster stock.

Matt Wyeth said part of the reason he wanted to embrace the new technology was to show his children that farming was an innovative business that could be exciting.

"This is the way the next generation is going to farm. We want to get them excited and show them that farming is sexy."

He wanted the drone to be a positive influence on the farm and be one more tool to give every lamb a fighting chance.