New tags to track health

Central and North Rural Weekly - - TECHNOLOGY - GEORDI OFFORD Geordi.offord@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

IN THE past 10 years tech­nol­ogy in agri­cul­ture has sky­rock­eted through the use of GPS track­ers and drones.

CQUniver­sity agri­cul­ture lec­turer Dr Jaime Man­ning will be tri­alling smart ear tags to help ad­dress an­i­mal health and well­be­ing is­sues in sheep.

She will be work­ing with Aus­tralian Wool In­no­va­tion and the Cen­tral Queens­land Live­stock Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence to test and eval­u­ate the sen­sor sys­tem de­vel­oped by AWI.

“Queens­land sheep pro­duc­ers are in need of new tech­nolo­gies, such as the smart sen­sor ear tag, to au­to­mat­i­cally de­tect is­sues af­fect­ing their an­i­mals,” she said.

“Our re­search will eval­u­ate whether the smart tags are rugged enough for Queens­land’s en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions and de­velop an­i­mal be­hav­iour al­go­rithms so farm­ers can be au­to­mat­i­cally alerted of any aris­ing health is­sues and un­der­take im­me­di­ate in­ter­ven­tion.”

“The ap­pli­ca­tions we are fo­cus­ing on are the de­tec­tion of preda­tor at­tacks, as well as more sub­tle be­hav­iour changes as­so­ci­ated with dis­ease de­vel­op­ment in sheep.”

Dr Man­ning said three of the most com­mon dis­eases wool pro­duc­ers faced were those caused by worms, flies and lice.

“Th­ese three have the big­gest im­pact eco­nom­i­cally so we’ll be in­ves­ti­gat­ing those quite closely,” she said.

“It’s quite alarm­ing when you look at the sta­tis­tics of just how many pro­duc­ers and an­i­mals are im­pacted by wild dogs and dis­ease.

“With th­ese ear tags we’re hop­ing for farm­ers to get alerts on the is­sues in their herd on their phone so they can in­ter­vene early.”

She said at the end of 2019 they will put the call out to pro­duc­ers to trial the ear tags on their prop­er­ties.

Be­fore it hap­pens she said the tags would need to un­dergo test­ing.

“We’ll need to make sure we’re col­lect­ing enough data from the tags, en­sure they’re rugged enough for use and also make sure they stay in the an­i­mal’s ear,” she said.

“Then once we’ve done that we can start work­ing with pro­duc­ers to start mon­i­tor­ing.”

Dr Man­ning said once farm­ers have ac­cess to the tags, com­mer­cially there are many ways it can be used.

“The good thing about tech­nol­ogy is it can be ap­plied in so many dif­fer­ent ways,” she said.

“De­pend­ing on the pro­ducer, they might only be in­ter­ested in the an­i­mal’s lo­ca­tion so they don’t have to con­stantly go out and check on them.

“We’ve also got pro­duc­ers who have more dis­ease is­sues so it’s good to see the dif­fer­ent ways one piece of tech­nol­ogy can be ap­plied.”

She said she’s no­ticed in the past few years more com­pa­nies have em­braced agri­cul­tural tech­nol­ogy.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

SMART TECH: Dr Jaime Man­ning from CQUniver­sity said the new smart sen­sor ear tags will mon­i­tor the be­hav­iour and well­be­ing of sheep.

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