Coastal group trials tracking technology

04 Aug, 2018 04:00 AM
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 Data information relayed back to the farmer using the new GPS tracking system that will be trialled by the Stirlings to Coast group between now and the end of the year.
Data information relayed back to the farmer using the new GPS tracking system that will be trialled by the Stirlings to Coast group between now and the end of the year.

THE Stirlings to Coast Farmers (SCF) group will partner with Melbourne-based agtech start-up company Iotag Pty Ltd to investigate the potential of using innovative GPS tracking technology.

Locata collars will be used to assess the potential benefits of multi-species grazing systems with sheep and cattle on pasture utilisation and meat quality.

The collars will be used to collect data from both sheep and cattle in real-time from an on-farm trial site at South Stirlings to enable accurate assessment of livestock grazing patterns and pasture utilisation during the season.

This data will be correlated against quality observation data obtained from meat processors when the animals are slaughtered.

An economic analysis will investigate the benefits of multi-species grazing on pasture management, meat quality and farm profitability and the trial will be used to promote the use of new technology by local producers for on-farm decision-making.

SCF chief executive officer Christine Kershaw said their goal was to “ensure pasture management and livestock production is maximised in high rainfall livestock production areas”.

“To achieve this, we will use meat quality data from processors to assist producers to improve their pasture utilisation whilst ensuring this does not have a detrimental impact on meat eating quality,” Dr Kershaw said.

SCF believes the trial is timely given strong consumer demand for meat quality and the emergence of new technologies that ensure eating quality and traceability can be linked to on-farm practices.

“The key is communication between consumers, processors and producers,” Dr Kershaw said.

She said feedback to producers from processors played an important part in increasing efficiency and value of livestock production systems.

Feedback to producers about health and quality on an individual carcase basis will help improve herd health and on-farm production performance, as most feedback to producers is currently limited to weight and fat score.

This has already been proven with significant improvements in production efficiencies in the pork and chicken industries, which to a large part, has been driven by accurate feedback.

“Our rationale is that there is value to be gained for both processors and producers if the gap between what is turned off and what consumers want is bridged and on-farm efficiencies are maximised to improve farm profitability,” Dr Kershaw said.

Iotag Pty Ltd has developed lightweight, reusable GPS smart collar, Locata, that can track animal location and movement, and collate data for a range of operational, health and grazing insights.

The solution works on the latest low-power wireless technology called LoRaWAN that is able to carry data from thousands of Locata collars over distances of more than 10 kilometres for about a tenth of the cost of 3G/4G networks, without needing mobile reception at each collar’s location.

Trials are expected to start this month and be completed by December.

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