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Bright future heralded for autonomous livestock management

Bright future heralded for autonomous livestock management

Published:10 July 2017

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn (centre) visited CQUniversity's CQIRP cattle yards to hear updates on a PhD research project from Don Menzies (right) and the head of CQUni's Precision Livestock Management team, Prof Dave Swain (left).

CQUniversity this week (11 July) reported on the changing face of Australian farming and heralded a bright future for autonomous livestock management.

Researchers are evaluating the latest technology and animal behaviour software algorithms used to automatically deliver daily data on individual animal performance, including growth rates, fertility, pregnancy status, parentage and date of calving.

They are also looking to broader-scale cooperation, through more integrated data systems using emerging technologies such as Blockchain to support industry-wide goals such as genetic breeding values and enhanced marketing strategies.

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn was present for updates on a pivotal PhD research project by Don Menzies, which was backed by a Telstra scholarship.

Drawing on his extensive beef industry background knowledge, Mr Menzies has been trialling automated data systems to identify maternal parentage, fertility and calving events.

He’s been able to report on the potential of Walk-over-Weighing (WoW) and radiolocation ear tag technology, including automated calving devices.

CQUniversity’s Precision Livestock Management (PLM) team is now exploring the optimal configuration for an end-to-end autonomous livestock management system.

“We wish to leverage the technologies, computational capabilities and communications to deliver decisions to boost the profitability of the beef industry, particularly in northern Australia,” says CQUniversity Provost Professor Helen Huntly.

“We want to use our research to underpin practical solutions and ensure that practical technology results in profitable outcomes for our graziers.”

Telstra CEO Mr Penn confirmed Telstra would fund a fresh PhD research scholarship of $75 000 over three years to help CQUni explore the interconnection of data systems in livestock businesses.

Telstra’s new scholarship holder will also scope the potential for localised, in-field sensor data processing to yield more efficient data transfer within low bandwidth systems in rural and remote locations.

Mr Penn said the scholarship was part of Telstra’s continued commitment to rural and regional Australia.

“This is about enabling graziers and farmers to run the farms of the future,” Mr Penn said.

“Whether it is delivering state of the art mobile technology to more places or supporting innovation in agriculture, we are committed to helping people in rural and regional Australia thrive.

“Telstra is proud to support CQUniversity in its continued research and innovation in agriculture. We look forward to continue working with CQUniversity as a partner looking to make advances in technology for the betterment of our lives here in Australia.”

CQUniversity’s Professor Dave Swain says the PLM team is well advanced in deploying autonomous livestock monitoring systems and developing a range of behavioural-based algorithms derived from fixed location sensors at watering points and on-animal sensors.

“Our next phase will provide a platform to enhance the value chain, providing greater information and direct feedback between consumers and producers,” Professor Swain says.

“The sensor capabilities provide the opportunity to enable greater control over the supply chain linked to more intensified data management and more efficient use of labour.”

CQUniversity’s PLM team is part of the University’s Institute of Future Farming Systems.