Ceres Tag adds behavior, pasture feed intake monitoring

Intake measurements will help boost production efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in grass-fed beef sector.

October 26, 2020

3 Min Read
Ceres Tag in action.jpg
Animal monitoring company Ceres Tag is adding new tech to its world-first, direct-to-satellite smart ear tags for the livestock industry.CSIRO

Ceres Tag, a comprehensive animal monitoring company, announced that it is adding a new dimension to its analytics and diagnostic range of animal performance health and welfare capabilities. Developed by the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, the eGrazor technology is a sensor that monitors cattle behavior, location and interactions.

CSIRO, together with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, has used eGrazor to deliver algorithms that can monitor a range of cattle behaviors and, notably, the amount of pasture consumed by individual grazing animals, according to a partner announcement distributed by CSIRO.

The team will work with Ceres Tag to implement the algorithms on the smart ear tag. The algorithms and capability further enhances Ceres Tag as a superior livestock information platform through the use of its direct-to-satellite monitoring from a lightweight, smart ear tag that considers animal welfare, the announcement said.

Accurate measurement of pasture intake using the eGrazor technology holds the key to more efficient cattle through monitoring feed efficiency, providing valuable phenotypic data to aid in selection decisions, the announcement said.

“Making decisions on your herd with this information will mean significant dollars directly to the bottom line of any livestock operation,” Ceres Tag chief executive officer David Smith said. “It has been likened to the Holy Grail of the pasture-fed livestock industry.

“We have been working in collaboration with CSIRO for many years in technology development and adding eGrazor, and the behavior monitoring algorithms was a natural extension to the existing advanced algorithm capability of the Ceres Tag platform,” he said.

Dr. Greg Bishop-Hurley, CSIRO eGrazor project leader, explained that eGrazor is one of the first systems to estimate pasture consumed by grazing livestock and calculate their efficiency.

“Developing advanced tech like eGrazor requires a diverse team with a wide range of skills, including hardware and software engineers, data scientists, machine learning specialists and pasture and animal scientists,” Bishop-Hurley said.

Research indicates that in the livestock sector, efficiency can be measured as a ratio of inputs to outputs or as feed consumed to kilograms of meat produced or calves weaned. However, on-farm productivity gains in the grass-fed beef sector have been static at approximately 0.5% per annum for the past 15 years, the announcement said. To maintain international competitiveness, the grass-fed sector needs to lift productivity gain to around 2.5% per annum.

Two possible solutions to this problem are to develop breeding strategies to identify animals genetically superior in feed efficiency or the application of advanced livestock management strategies based on accurate, real-time information on animal performance, the announcement said.

These can both be achieved by measuring the pasture intake of individual cattle in the grazing environment. Together, eGrazor and Ceres Tag can provide access to this knowledge to make decisions that previously were unable to be achieved due to the ability to remotely monitor and transfer the information without the need of any infrastructure.

With the recent announcements regarding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by world-leading industry participants in the U.S. sustainability initiative, Ceres Tag presents an information management strategy for all sustainable livestock production systems.

“Feed intake strongly correlates with methane and carbon dioxide output, so strategies such as genetic selection aimed at reducing intake while maintaining and improving productivity can reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Paul Greenwood, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries livestock systems expert.

The eGrazor units have been used in collars during the research phase but now will enter the commercial market on the Ceres Tag. Researchers will continue to have access to the eGrazor collars through Ceres Tag to gain further insights into cattle performance, health and welfare.

The accelerated production of eGrazor offers new opportunities to efficiently collect data to measure and define novel traits in cattle rarely or not previously available on a commercial scale, the announcement said.

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