In livestock and pasture enterprises, precision agriculture are available which make it easier for animals to be managed individually. Animals can be remotely tracked, monitored and managed without the need to drive out to the paddock, and in some cases much of the day’s work can already be taken care of before you’ve even finished your breakfast.
Satellite imagery is a valuable and surprisingly affordable tool for precision pasture management. Satellite pasture analysis allows the estimation and mapping of feed on offer (FOO) and/or pasture growth rate (PGR), allowing for variability within each paddock to be visualised. Being able to see this variability on paper can lead to more well-informed decisions when it comes to feed budgeting, rotational grazing planning, and even modifications to fence lines.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) ear-tag systems and gate scanners have been successfully used to detect illness in sheep, by monitoring the order and speed in which individual animals move through runs – when animals that normally move through early in the order start to fall back, this can indicate that an animal is distressed and may need attention. Monitoring data collected by gate scanners can also make it possible to automatically match calves or lambs with their mothers.
Where weighing and recording the growth of each animal was once a time-consuming and costly exercise, systems are now available which automatically identify animals using RFID, and record their weight as they pass through runs and gates on their way to water. Automated drafting systems can sort animals into different fenced areas based on their weight, age, genetics, origin, or any other classification selected and recorded by the farmer. For example, smaller animals can be kept separate from larger animals in order to reduce competition for feed, and animals can be automatically selected and moved into different paddocks when their age or weight reaches a given target.
When it comes to dairy enterprises, 24-hour robotic milking systems are also increasingly being used on many Australian dairy farms, leading to significant productivity gains and reductions in labour costs. There is also evidence to show that these systems foster improved temperament among dairy cows, leading to higher milk production rates.
GPS movement tracking technologies are becoming available that not only monitor an animal’s location, but can even enable detection of illness, distress and even oestrus, allowing timely and appropriate attention or intervention. Virtual fencing systems can allow animals to be kept in predetermined areas without the need for actual post-and-wire fences or other physical barriers, and may soon even allow for animals to be moved from one area to another without any human intervention. When it’s approaching time to sell, 3D livestock scanning technologies can automatically determine meat yield and fat cover to precisely target processor grid specifications.
If you want to reduce your inputs, improve your outputs and bring your livestock enterprise into the digital age of precision agriculture, Eden PA can help. For most farms, the first step in adopting any PA or systems will be the creation of a package of digitised maps of farm assets and infrastructure. Eden PA can produce accurate and comprehensive maps for farms of any size, with competitive rates available. From there you can start planning for more efficient management of your animals through the introduction of cost-effective PA technologies.
Using research-based techniques and a scientific approach to diagnosing problems and finding solutions, Eden PA can build on your own knowledge and experience as a farmer or producer to find new ways to boost your profits and cut your input costs at the same time. Eden PA is also the perfect partner to agronomists and other agricultural advisors, who can complement Eden PA’s analytical and technological expertise with their own knowledge and experience in areas like plant physiology, animal husbandry, or agribusiness.
Eden PA’s customers enjoy smaller minimum area requirements and lower minimum prices, making precision agriculture possible for even small properties. Larger properties don’t miss out on the savings, with Eden PA’s tiered pricing structure which is designed to remain competitive and economical as farm sizes increase. Regardless of your property size, it may also be worth considering partnering with neighbouring or nearby properties and taking advantage of the savings that can be gained through collaboration or group buying, which can potentially cut costs for each participating farmer by more than 50%.