Grazing Land Management

New technology sees Australian cattle managed from space

Beef Central, 22/10/2015

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AN Australian technology that combines pasture monitoring from space with automatic walk-over weighing and drafting of cattle will go on full public show for the first time later this month.

The groundbreaking Precision Pastoral Management Systems package developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation saves labour, time and money, improves livestock productivity, increases sustainability and protects vegetation and wildlife in Australia’s – and potentially the world’s – arid rangelands and savannahs.

The full package will be demonstrated at a field day at Glenflorrie Station in Western Australia’s Pilbara region on October 28 with field days to follow in the Northern Territory and Queensland in 2016.

Murray Grey from Glenflorrie Station said his family was really excited at the potential benefits that the R&D project looked to deliver to the pastoral industry.

“The ability to monitor cattle liveweights in real time on such a broad scale whilst simultaneously monitoring feed on offer and making critical decisions before it impacts on the bottom line, is a game changer in my opinion,” Mr Grey said.

“We are looking forward to hosting the field day here at Glenflorrie, and sharing our experience of using the PPMS. We have found it to be a reliable and easy-to-use system,” he said.

Research leader Sally Leigo, of the NT Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries said PPMS was an integrated package of tools and technologies that automated the management of livestock remotely, mustering and drafting animals automatically, reporting on pasture condition and availability.

“It reduces the pastoral workload and helps to balance livestock numbers with feed availability to avoid overgrazing,” she said.

“PPMS is a game-changer for rangelands grazing in our opinion, because for the first time, it puts hard data on cattle liveweights and feed availability in the hands of the manager, while reducing costs, lifting earnings and sustaining the pastoral landscape.”

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The technology was developed exclusively in Australia, with trials over three years on five commercial Australian cattle stations, and support from the pastoral grazing industry.

“This end-user engagement ensures a product that graziers and pastoralists want and need, leading to a ready domestic market for the technology,” Ms Leigo said.

“PPMS incorporates remote livestock management (automated weighing and drafting); telemetry; satellite land and pasture observation; water management; and cloud-based analytics into a single, easy-to-use package.”

The full package is now being commercialised in Australia, and the technology and software continually updated for the latest advances.

“It has major export potential to rangeland grazing industries globally, which still produce most of the world’s meat,” Ms Leigo said. “When we’ve described it at overseas conferences there has been a great deal of interest.”

The research team was led by Sally Leigo based with the NT DPIF in Alice Springs, with staff and funding from CRC-REP, NT DPIF, Precision Pastoral Pty Ltd and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Forestry. They have spent the last two years validating the pasture monitoring system used in the PPMS, enabling livestock producers to take effective short-term stocking decisions in what used to be a highly unpredictable environment.

Two more cattle stations have recently joined the project: the Hayes’s family Undoolya Station near Alice Springs, NT and the Australian Agricultural Co’s Dalgonally Station, Julia Creek, Qld.

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The PPMS is an online cloud based software system that automatically draws on data from multiple providers that is customised to an individual station’s requirements. In addition, the PPMS analyses this data and presents it into a format that allow beef producers to quickly grasp the major trends in performance of their cattle and pasture.

“By researching and developing this technology on commercial cattle stations and in close consultation with the station managers and the project’s advisory committee, we aim at the end of the project to have a tool that is ready for beef producers to take up and use,” Ms Leigo said.

“The stations involved in the project have provided us with extremely valuable advice as to what aspects of the technology do and do not fit with the needs of their business. By using our technology these beef producers have provided invaluable feedback on how PPMS can be expanded for further benefit, not only on the station but the entire beef supply chain.”

The NT minister for primary industry Willem Westra van Holthe said the Precision Pastoral Management Systems was a ‘game changer’ for the northern cattle industry.

“The Northern Territory Government invested $1.8 million in a collaborative project with the CRC to drive innovation in the cattle industry,” he said.

“This is an exciting time for the industry: the technology is currently in the process of being commercialised with the aim of hosting two industry field days towards the middle of next year to demonstrate the PPMS more broadly,” Mr Westra van Holthe said.

 

  • The Glenflorrie Field Day will feature a line-up of leading beef producers and expert speakers on the cattle industry of the future. Click here to access details.
  • For more information on the PPMS system, click here.

 

 

 

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