CSIRO ini­tia­tives

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

The CSIRO is de­vel­op­ing Fit­bit-es­que de­vices for sheep ... though this doesn’t mean there’s go­ing to be a Big­gest

Loser: Sheep TV show com­ing any­time soon.

The idea of a Fit­bit-like de­vice that mon­i­tors the day-to-day lives of sheep, how­ever, could have a lot of prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions in the field.

Ac­cord­ing to the CSIRO there are roughly 74 mil­lion sheep in Aus­tralia, and keep­ing track of them all is a des­per­ately dif­fi­cult job for farm­ers.

Now imag­ine if farm­ers were able to mon­i­tor the health, where­abouts and be­hav­iour of their flock 24/7 us­ing GPS and ac­celerom­e­ters that mea­sure 3D move­ment. That is ex­actly what the CSIRO is try­ing to ac­com­plish.

“Farm­ers gen­er­ally rely on gut feel, rules of thumb and visual ob­ser­va­tions to man­age their live­stock,” CSIRO se­nior re­search sci­en­tist Dr Dean Thomas says.

“We feel we can in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and im­prove an­i­mal well­be­ing by de­vel­op­ing sci­en­tif­i­cally based mon­i­tor­ing prod­ucts that alert and keep farm­ers up to date with the well­be­ing of their flocks.”

The track­ers, which are at­tached be­hind a sheep’s shoul­ders, were ini­tially tested in Western Aus­tralia to see how they could help lo­cal farm­ers.

The track­ers proved to be rather more use­ful than first thought, and pretty soon the CSIRO re­alised that they could be used to mon­i­tor a myr­iad of dif­fer­ent oc­cur­rences, such as: an­i­mal growth and health; es­capes, pre­da­tion and theft; wa­ter sup­ply; ero­sion; and pas­ture quan­tity.

The next step in de­vel­op­ing this track­ing soft­ware will be ac­cu­rately in­ter­pret­ing data to best un­der­stand its value.

To in­ter­pret the data cor­rectly, the CSIRO says it will have to go back to ba­sics and visu­ally mon­i­tor sheep be­hav­iour and pro­duc­tiv­ity across a range of sit­u­a­tions.

An ex­am­ple of this would be whether the speed of a flock’s move­ment could be used to de­tect a preda­tor and alert a farmer to its pres­ence.

“We need to build up our data over a num­ber of dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios, and then con­vert all of that into an in­te­grated sys­tem for gra­ziers,” Thomas says.

The CSIRO says that ad­vances in live­stock man­age­ment tech­nolo­gies may pro­vide a so­lu­tion to many of the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with keep­ing sheep in mixed crop and live­stock farms, and hold the key to help­ing farm­ers breed and man­age health­ier and more pro­duc­tive sheep. CSIRO de­vel­op­ing re­mote live­stock lo­ca­tion and health track­ers

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