Satellite system aids pasture management

Australia develops software system that uses remote livestock management with satellite land observations to help manage range cattle operations.

A revolutionary technology developed in Australia combines pasture monitoring from space with automatic weighing and drafting of cattle will go on full public show for the first time this month.

The groundbreaking Precision Pastoral Management Systems (PPMS) package developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation saves labor, time and money, improves livestock productivity, increases sustainability and protects vegetation and wildlife in Australia's — and potentially the world's — arid rangelands and savannahs.

The full package will be demonstrated at field days at in Western Australia on Oct. 28, and other field days to be held in the Northern Territory and Queensland in 2016.

Research leader Sally Leigo of the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries (NT DPIF), explained, "PPMS is an integrated package of tools and technologies that automate the management of livestock remotely, muster and draft animals automatically, report on pasture condition and availability. It reduces the pastoral workload and helps to balance livestock numbers with feed availability to avoid overgrazing.

"PPMS is a game-changer for rangelands grazing because, for the first time, it puts hard data on cattle liveweights and feed availability in the hands of the manager, while reducing costs, lifting earnings and sustaining the pastoral landscape," Leigo said.

The technology was developed exclusively in Australia, with trials over three years on five commercial Australian cattle stations, and full support from the pastoral grazing industry.

"This end user engagement ensures a product that graziers and pastoralists want and need, leading to a ready domestic market for the technology," Leigo added.

PPMS incorporates remote livestock management (automated weighing and drafting), telemetry, satellite land and pasture observation, water management and cloud-based analytics into a single, easy-to-use package. The full package is now being commercialized in Australia, and the technology and software is continually updated for the latest advances.

According to NT DPIF, PPMS has major export potential to rangeland grazing industries globally, which still produce most of the world’s meat.

PPMS is an online, cloud-based software system that automatically draws on data from multiple providers that is customized to an individual cattle station. In addition, PPMS analyzes these data and presents it into a format that allows beef producers to quickly grasp the major trends in performance of their cattle and pasture.

"By researching and developing this technology on commercial cattle stations and in close consultation with the station managers and the project’s advisory committee, we aim at the end of the project to have a tool that is ready for beef producers to take up and use," Leigo said.

"The stations involved in the project have provided us with extremely valuable advice as to what aspects of the technology do and do not fit with the needs of their business. By using our technology, these beef producers have provided invaluable feedback on how PPMS can be expanded for further benefit not only on the station but the entire beef supply chain."

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