Livestock

Sharing skills with ranchers

By Country News

Australian graziers are lending a hand to their American counterparts, helping them to boost beef production.

Central Queensland University associate professor Mark Trotter will this year work with his American colleagues from New Mexico State University and Ohio State University, to improve their decision making and their ability to use and interpret data on-farm.

‘‘In these two contrasting areas of the United States, we are looking at applying technology from satellite vegetation imaging systems and integrating that data with on-animal sensors such as GPS tracking and accelerometer (Fitbit-type sensors) and then pulling those bits of data together in a way that helps ranchers understand how their animals are interacting with the feedbase,’’ Dr Trotter said.

‘‘How things normally happen at the moment is that a rancher will drive out or ride out on his horse and look across the landscape and then make decisions whether he needs to move those animals to a new paddock based on what he can see of the feedbase and how the animals are behaving.

‘‘But he’s probably only seeing about five per cent of his country and can only observe his animals for a small amount of time, a week later he might realise he actually should have moved those animals much sooner because there has been over-grazing which he did not initially observe and there’s not enough feed.’’

Dr Trotter said the ability to read the landscape and how animals were behaving was a skill that was increasingly being lost as generational change takes place on properties.

‘‘We are trying to integrate these technologies to help producers make better decisions where they are time poor,’’ he said.

‘‘Satellites can already tell us a lot about the feedbase, across a whole paddock or a whole ranch and we have new animal tracking systems — the new ear tags and collars on cows — so we can potentially track every animal across that landscape.

‘‘So now that all this information’s out there, this project is about bringing it all together to assist the producer when he visually assesses his stock and pastures.

‘‘The benefits for those ranchers will be better decision making leading to increased productivity.

‘‘They will know they have animals with adequate feed in front of them and that they are preventing overgrazing, thus increasing the sustainability significantly.’’