THE livestock sector is under mounting pressure to produce more from a smaller environmental footprint, and accurate measurement of pasture intake is seen as one of the keys to more efficient cattle production.
Production efficiency in the grassfed beef sector is a key focus for the industry’s transformation. It provides the most cost-effective way to grow production and profitability while contributing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions intensity.
In the livestock sector, efficiency can be measured as a ratio of inputs to outputs, or as feed consumed to kilograms of meat produced, or calves weaned. However on-farm productivity gains by the grassfed beef sector have been static at approximately 0.5 percent per annum for the past 15 years, CSIRO says.
To maintain international competitiveness, the on-farm sector needs to lift productivity gain to around 2.5pc per annum, it says.
Two possible solutions to this problem are the development of breeding strategies to identify animals with genetically superior feed efficiency, or the application of advanced livestock management strategies based on accurate, real-time information on animal performance.
These can both be achieved by measuring intake of pasture by individual cattle in the grazing environment. However, this has previously been a difficult and time consuming process, which has prevented measurement on a scale required to obtain meaningful data.
Real-time data on a mass scale
Working in collaboration with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, CSIRO has developed the eGrazor – a monitoring device that determines pasture intake by cattle based on behavioural information.
The solar-powered system’s sensors are worn by grazing livestock, and collect real-time behavioural data that can be interpreted to inform management and selection strategies for sustainable livestock production systems. Operation of the system requires minimal labour, and once deployed the cattle are free to return to their grazing environment.
Accelerated production opportunities
The eGrazor approach offers new opportunities to efficiently collect data to measure and define novel traits in cattle, CSIRO says.
Successful adoption of this technology will improve the precision of nutritional and other management strategies, and accelerate the rate of genetic gain for feed efficiency in grazing cattle.