‘Predictive tool’ alerts producers to issues
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.
Producer Brad Wooldridge uses ASKBILL technology for sheep management efficiencies.