By Frances Mao
(Australian Associated Press)
Managing cattle from space could be a near reality for Australian farmers thanks to a locally developed technology designed to save them labour, time and money.
The Precision Pastoral Management Tool (PPMT) is Australian-developed technology that’s slated to revolutionise how Australia’s vast cattle stations are managed.
It uses a hi-tech communication system known as telemetry and satellites to weigh cattle stations’ stock and record images of their pasture.
Weighing cattle has always been an arduous task given that the average cattle station in northern Australia carries more than 7,000 cattle.
Stations can only manage the mammoth task once or twice a year.
It’s also been nearly physically impossible for farmers to view all of their pasture, given that the average station is larger than 2,000 square kilometres – the size of Luxembourg.
Enter the PPMT, a joint government and private sector backed project that combines satellite technology and mobile telemetry to complete those tasks.
Cattle are measured when they walk over a digitalised weighing platform around their watering yard, with each cattle marked by their own electronic tag.
That data is then transmitted into a cloud-based data network which analyses the result and publishes the information in a summary or graph to the station owner.
Satellites then record the pastures every 250m, sending back data that shows how green the land is to farmers.
“That information allows the manager to make some really accurate decisions, like when to sell their cattle or what paddock to move their herd into. At the moment most producers make these decisions by eye,” research group leader Sally Leigo told AAP.
Station owners on average can only regularly see about two per cent of their pasture.
She said that the use of this big data was in line with other industries building databases of information and assessing that information to identify trends and patterns to improve business.
The technology has been trialled to great effect on five cattle stations including corporate beef producers and family-run farms in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland.
“We’ve learnt a lot from working with individual cattle stations, they give us the feedback on what data is really helpful and can be used well,” she said.
“The local cattle industry too is just so excited about this.”
The technology is due to be commercialised in the near future, with various business models being considered including leases or annual licence fees for farms.
The results of the project will be presented to the public for the first time at one of the trial Western Australian sites Glenforrie Station on October 28.