Producers wanted for smart sensor stock theft trials

Published:13 February 2017

Associate Professor Mark Trotter

CQUniversity researchers are calling on producers to participate in a research program testing smart sensor technology as a means of preventing and detecting stock theft.

In collaboration with AgForce, the research project is aimed at developing a new livestock monitoring system which can be used by landholders and law enforcement agencies to remotely monitor animals.

The 2001‐2002 National Farm Crime Survey, conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology, found that livestock theft was the most commonly reported rural crime affecting 6% of farms, involving 186,777 animals with an estimated annual cost of $16 million. However, most incidents (65%) go unreported  and the true cost is more likely to be closer to $67 million a year.

“Stock theft can range from small incursions paring off a handful of animals from larger groups, all the way through to major criminal operations in which entire herds are mustered into portable yards and shipped out in semi‐trailers,” project leader Associate Professor Mark Trotter said.

“In all cases the opportunity to steal is a result of the inability of the farmer to constantly monitor the location and behaviour of their livestock.”

CQUniversity’s Precision Livestock Management team is recognised as a national leader in the use of sensor technologies to enhance animal production. Dr Trotter will be collaborating with Professor Steve Moore from CQUniversity’s School of Engineering and Technology in adapting sensors for  use on livestock, and with Dr Stuart Charters of New Zealand’s Lincoln University, who is an expert in data management and visualisation.

“One of the limitations of the National Livestock Identification System is that the location of an animal is only sporadically known when the tags are checked when livestock are bought, sold or moved along the production chain - animal data cannot be accessed remotely or in real‐time,” Dr Trotter said.

“We have designed a generic animal sensing platform with GPS location to monitor animal movement that we will test in stock theft simulations at AgForce’s Belmont Research Station.”

At the outset of the program, CQUniversity will be hosting a workshop with producers directly affected by stock theft to gain insights into the types of behaviour, both criminal and animal, that could be recorded during stock theft, as well as feedback on how on‐animal data could be best be relayed to  these end‐users in a meaningful manner.