ANDREW Slack has been researching the field of olfaction and how dogs’ highly-developed sense of smell may one day be used for early detection of sick animals in the feed yard.
He got the idea after watching a television program about the use of dogs to detect early signs of cancer in humans.
“I thought that was just a really cool idea,” he said.
“Then I thought, in the production animal industry we also occasionally have sick animals, so why can’t we use the dogs to help diagnose them?”
Andrew’s research was targeted at Bovine Respiratory Disease, which can often go undetected in the feedyard.
“Cattle are usually preyed on by other animals and as a result are very good at hiding illness,” he said. “Dogs on the other hand, are natural hunters and good at detecting weakness and sickness in other animals. Their acute sense of smell is part of that.”
Andrew presented his research at yesterday’s Beefworks conference in Toowoomba, where he was announced as the 2015 ALFA Philbro Young Lot Feeder Achiever.
Born and bred in Brisbane, Andrew moved to Gatton to study applied science and animal production at the University of Queensland.
After graduating he became a trainee manager in 2012 at Smithfield feedlot near Proston, in Queensland’s South Burnett region. He has since been promoted to mill manager, processing up to 200 tonnes of steamflaked grain a day for Smithfield’s ration formulation.
Andrew said he got into the feedlot industry because he liked its production focus, and emphasis on performance measurement and improvement. He felt it was the best avenue to apply his animal production studies.
“Feedlots have such a rapid feedback loop of data so we can always be looking at our performance,” he said.
It’s his second time running for the award after he made the finals last year, where he finished as runner-up to the 2014 winner, Emily Perkins.
The award includes $5000 towards an overseas study tour, and a trip to Canberra to participate in the Training Rural Australians In Leadership (TRAIL) program.
Andrew said he planned to travel to the US as part of his study tour, to examine management systems, particularly in areas like grain processing, animal health, performance recording and general yard management.
“Hopefully I can bring some knowledge back from there and help make our feedlot more productive,” he said.
There were 16 applicants for this year’s Young Lotfeeder Achiever award, a strong rise from 12 applicants last year.
Six finalists were flown to Sydney where they joined the ALFA board at a dinner showcasing the lotfeeding industry. The group was then ‘shortlisted’ to three finalists, including Andrew, plus runners-up, Thomas Green from Teys Australia’s Jindalee feedlot and Jeff Schuller from Coonamble feedlot, pictured below.