EVERY cattle producer in Australia now has free access to satellite maps showing weekly changes in groundcover and pasture biomass on their properties – provided they are registered members of Meat & Livestock Australia.
The technology has been made available to all Australian producers for free under the new Australian Feedbase Monitor (AFM) program, a joing initiative of MLA and technology provider Cibo Labs, which itself has tipped in more than $2 million in investment to make the world-first program a reality.
Launched today at the MLA Updates held in Toowoomba yesterday, the Australian Feedbase Monitor tool provides producers with satellite-derived objective estimates of leading pasture growth, biomass and ground cover for their property.It is free for MLA members who have linked their Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) accounts to their myMLA dashboard.
Managing Director of MLA, Jason Strong, said the Australian Feedbase Monitor helps take the guesswork out of grazing management, putting more precise information at producers’ fingertips.
“The AFM will be a catalyst for a major shift in the objective management of Australia’s pasture and fodder feedbase,” Mr Strong said.
A survey undertaken by Cibo Labs showed that over 85pc of producers surveyed made regular pasture assessments, with 40pc undertaking a weekly assessment. However, three quarters of these assessments were carried out using subjective visual assessments.
Although producers conducted regular visual inspections, 28pc of producers identified they often had to make unplanned reductions in stock numbers in response to pasture conditions. These forced reductions resulted in over 40pc of producers identifying lower sale returns.
The financial impact of inaccurate visual pasture assessments not only impacts sale returns, but often leads to increased supplementary feeding costs. Around 46% of survey respondents identified a need to provide additional supplementary feeds at least twice in the past five years.
Angus beef producer, Paul Franks from Flat Tops, in the Upper Hunter, NSW said he’s looking forward to making the AFM a regular resource in his toolbox.
“The more you use it, the more valuable it becomes. You can go back and look at the pasture trends on your property over time and use that data to plan your management strategy going forward,” Mr Franks said.
The tool’s satellite maps are updated every five days, showing the variability in pasture biomass for a producer’s entire farm at 1ha resolution. Mr Strong said the frequency of the updates will help producers to understand where the feedbase may be declining or responding to weather events over time.
“Producers will also be able to generate graphs showing monthly changes in the feedbase since 2017, compare individual months to the same period in previous years and compare their farms to regional trends.
“The AFM will equip producers to make earlier and more informed grazing decisions to avoid forced stock reductions or unplanned supplementary feeding programs.”
From today, MLA members will be able to access the AFM for free though the myMLA portal by linking their LPA account to their myMLA dashboard. Within a few minutes, they will be able to click ‘Access the tool’ from the myMLA dashboard and receive secure, private and ongoing access to weekly updates on their feedbase for any registered PIC.
If producers want high resolution and more frequent information, or if they are not an MLA member with a linked LPA account, there is also a paid subscription service available via Cibo Labs.
For more information on the Australian Feedbase Monitor, visit Australian Feedbase Monitor