‘Pre­dic­tive tool’ alerts pro­duc­ers to is­sues

Countryman - - LIVESTOCK - Bob Gar­nant

The first in­stal­ment of ma­chine learn­ing through app tech­nol­ogy, ASKBILL, is pro­vid­ing sheep pro­duc­ers with an alert sys­tem to warn of im­pend­ing is­sues.

Sheep CRC’s train­ing and in­dus­try en­gage­ment co-or­di­na­tor Lu Ho­gan said through pre­dic­tions based on cli­mate fore­casts, farm­ers are pro­vided a full range of ben­e­fits from an ASKBILL ac­count.

“The key ben­e­fits are pre­dic­tions of an­i­mal weight and con­di­tion score, pas­ture avail­abil­ity, sup­ple­men­tary feed re­quire­ments and when lambs will meet grid spec­i­fi­ca­tions,” she said.

“The prop­erty set-up re­quires farm­ers to sub­mit stock num­bers and es­ti­mated weights, cur­rent pas­ture avail­abil­ity and key dates of join­ing, shear­ing and crutch­ing.”

Ms Ho­gan said in the fu­ture, farm­ers would have the op­tion to share in­for­ma­tion about their grow­ing lambs with pro­ces­sors or agents, so that lambs can be more ef­fi­ciently sched­uled for pro­cess­ing, in­creas­ing the level of com­pli­ance with grids and in­creas­ing pro­ducer’s re­turns.

Arthur River and Kal­gan farmer Brad Wooldridge par­tic­i­pated in the ASKBILL val­i­da­tion pro­gram, con­ducted by WA val­ida­tor Michael Hy­der, which be­gan early 2017 and fin­ished a year later.

“It fol­lowed a sub­set of 200 twin-bear­ing com­pos­ite ewes from scan­ning, through to the sale of a sub­set of the lambs and these were tracked through the abat­toir to get the full re­sults,” he said.

“The pas­tures were reg­u­larly mon­i­tored for quan­tity and qual­ity, as were the ewes which were sam­pled for ge­nomic test­ing, preg­nancy scanned, live weight, con­di­tion scored, worm re­sis­tance tested with worm egg counts done at in­ter­vals.”

Mr Wooldridge said the sheep mon­i­tor­ing re­sults were used to check if the ASKBILL pre­dic­tions re­flected what was ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing.

“At the fi­nal de­brief there were no out­stand­ing is­sues and the team from the Sheep CRC were pleased with the re­sults,” he said.

“The over­all out­come for us was that we fo­cused more on man­age­ment to achieve the re­sults we were af­ter.”

Ms Ho­gan said the val­i­da­tion re­sults in­di­cated that ASKBILL pro­vided ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tions for at least six weeks of pas­ture and an­i­mal per­for­mance.

“The ac­cu­racy of longer-term pre­dic­tions is be­ing eval­u­ated,” she said.

Mr Wooldridge said ASKBILL used com­plex cal­cu­la­tions to an­a­lyse weather, stock and pas­ture in­for­ma­tion.

“It is a pre­dic­tive tool that alerts you to any is­sues that are com­ing, so you have time to un­der­take man­age­ment tac­tics be­fore an is­sue oc­curs, be it worms, flies, lambs not be­ing heavy enough, low ewe con­di­tion score,” he said.

“The pas­ture worm bur­den pre­dic­tion was re­ally good in that it reen­forced the im­por­tance of ef­fec­tive and timely drenches.”

Mr Wooldridge said the ASKBILL app no­ti­fi­ca­tion keeps the user’s sheep man­age­ment aware­ness up front in busy times.

“ASKBILL is a great ex­am­ple of what can be achieved by hav­ing a team fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing tools for the sheep in­dus­try,” he said.

“It has been built to al­low in­te­gra­tion with other live­stock man­age­ment tools.”

Ms Ho­gan said 45 farm­ing prop­er­ties are un­der the ASKBILL regis­tra­tion in WA and 300 na­tion­ally.

“The an­nual cost for a sub­scrip­tion is $110 in­clu­sive of GST,” she said.

Pic­ture: Bob Gar­nant

Pro­ducer Brad Wooldridge uses ASKBILL tech­nol­ogy for sheep man­age­ment ef­fi­cien­cies.

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