LIVESTOCK RESEARCH: GPS COULD LIFT PRODUCTIVITY

Updated: Apr 17, 2018

Weekly Times


MAKING  the collection of data on-farm easier will improve productivity in the livestock industry.


Associate professor Mark Trotter is focused on developing and delivering new sensor technology that will make a difference in livestock efficiency — increasing production or reducing costs.


“That’s essentially about providing graziers with remote measurements of how much feed they have in the paddock and where and what their cattle are doing,” Dr Trotter said.


Dr Trotter has recently begun working with the precision livestock research team at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton.


This includes work on Data Muster, a walk-over weigh and water point monitoring platform aimed at putting all farm data in one place.


Dr Trotter said analysis from CQU, Meat and Livestock Australia and CSIRO showed Data Muster users could achieve a 2.5 per cent price premium through increased optimisation of cattle weights to fit with market specifications.


“And a 5 per cent increase in average sale weights due to improved timeliness of sale and negate weight loss at muster,” he said.


It could also enable early identification of non-performing animals needing a health treatment or replacement and, when teamed with GPS could have further benefits.


“If we can get GPS tracking technology in an ear tag that could detect something like ryegrass staggers in Victoria, you are looking at the equivalent of $118 increase in gross margin per hectare through early detection of ryegrass toxicity and being able to manage around that,” Dr Trotter said.


“We are working on developing sensors that will provide the location and behaviour of grazing livestock in real time to producers — there is a whole heap of applications that can be directed towards, from preventing stock theft to providing warning of dog attack, all the way through to information on where animals are growing and aren’t grazing, and making decisions around variable rate fertiliser in grazing and pasture systems.”


These sensors would also be able to help farmers improve lambing survival.

“We have research that allows us to detect when a ewe goes off to lamb, because of the way she moves but also because she isolates herself from the rest of the flock usually, which you can see in the GPS tracking data,” Dr Trotter said.


“We are now looking for new sensors that can tell us exactly when she is having the lamb, and the duration of lambing event, as dystopia is critical in lamb survival.


“Also how well she mothers up with that lamb — ideally we are looking for ewes that spend 4-6 hours mothering up with that lamb before returning to the flock — we are trying to find the best mothers in the flock.”


Dr Trotter said they were also developing ways to engage the next generation of farmers and industry experts through embedding new technology into high school curriculum.


He said it was about engaging the ag students, and also showing non-ag students how challenging the technology and computer science questions were in agriculture, swaying them towards a career in agri-tech.


If producers are interested in being a part of the research contact Dr Trotter at Datamuster@cqu.edu.au

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