Precision Livestock Management (PLM)

Our Precision Livestock Management (PLM) team is recognised as an international leader in the field of tropical livestock research.

Located in the heart of the northern beef industry, our research team is headquartered in the Beef Capital Rockhampton, with access to state-of-the-art laboratory facilities as well as the renowned Belmont Research Station for field trials.

With strong links to industry, and producer participation in our trials, our research program has a strong emphasis on being relevant to industry needs and delivering practical solutions to the challenges producers face.

Our area of speciality is the use of cutting-edge technology to automatically gather phenotypic data such as animal liveweight, pregnancy status and parentage, as well as improve the understanding of animal behaviours, all with a view to improving on-farm profitability and productivity.

Data gathered by our PLM program is already supporting the cattle industry’s genetic research, assisting in the identification of animals which are more productive and fertile.

A farmer driving a tractor

Through our ‘DataMusterTM' app, producers can make more informed management decisions, such as quickly and easily identifying animals ready for market or those that may have health problems.

The system has been shown to reduce on-farm labour costs by automatically monitoring animal growth rates and access to water.

Our PLM team members are also supporting the long-term development of the industry by sharing their knowledge with students enrolled in CQUniversity's Bachelor of Agriculture. This course is unique in its combination of higher education, vocational training, research engagement and industry extension, and has been designed to provide students with the right mix of practical, skills-based training and exposure to the latest research and technology.

Specialist research skills in:

  • Tropical livestock breeding and management
  • Animal behaviour, including social networks, water/plant/animal interactions
  • Genetic phenotyping for current and new traits using new and automated methods of measurement
  • The interaction of phenotypic performance with nutrition and wellbeing
  • Automated data capture and analysis
  • Sensors and digital technologies for the enhancement of whole of system management
  • Education and extension, with all projects including a communications component.
CQUniversity's Precision Livestock Management team conducting research in the field of tropical livestock.


Most people now realise one of the most productive traits in Northern Australia is fertility and we're seeing the data that we're collecting with CQUni and their walk over weighing really helps us collate very intensive measurements that give us an indication of the quickest re-breeders and the more fertile cattle in the herd.

So we're looking at automated ways of recording the fertility performance of cattle in remote locations. You know, done the hard yards with the research and now it's about bringing those online through the data master application to deliver those solutions to industry.

Essentially, you know 100 years ago we had people out riding around herds and flocks looking at individual animals and making sure they were all right. We can't do that anymore and so what we're trying to do is take sensors and use the sensors in place of that really intensive observation. The big things we're looking at is animal health and so trying to detect disease states remotely while animals are out in the paddock. If we can do that, there's a chance that we can step in and actually prevent further animals from getting that disease or getting to actually fix up animals that are having a problem. Yeah so we're working with a number of different technologies, so with collars and ear tags. One of the most interesting and really simple results came through recently, where we can really clearly pick up buffalo fly infestation off some of these sensor ear tags and it's not rocket science, they obviously flick their head around a lot and we can pick that up with the sensor. But that's really important because if we can start to detect that remotely when animals are out in the paddock, we can really start to see when an infestation is starting to build up and start treatment earlier than we might have.

Being able to successfully use these devices as a welfare monitoring tool gives producers the power to prove to consumers and society that their animals are being looked after in a welfare friendly manner, and this opens up all kinds of welfare opportunities. It also allows producers to improve their productivity by intervening earlier than what they normally would on their properties.

We will try to get the balance across the learning program and the applied research program that delivers graduates that are able to go out either in their own businesses, or as valued employees that will be able to create good business opportunities, lift production, understand what it is to work in a team and across a value-added supply chain.

Water-based livestock methane mitigation

The ‘Water-Based Livestock Methane Mitigation’ project will examine a range of methane-reducing compounds determine if they can be safely and effectively be delivered to cattle via automated water systems to decrease enteric methane emissions. The compounds will be delivered in the same way as fluoride is added to human drinking water or as additives are mixed in fuel for engine efficiency – measured doses dissolved in the water supply via automated technology.

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Minimising calf loss in Northern beef herds

Calf loss costs the northern Australian beef industry more than $53ma year. This project will use precision livestock devices to monitor cows before and after calving to better understand how behaviour impacts calf loss in northern Australia. It uses GPS to track distance travelled, accelerometers to measure activity levels and thermometers to detect heat stress. This information will allow researchers to understand how environmental factors like shade, wild dogs and water availability impact cow behaviour and what it means for calf survival. This research is one part of a wider project called ‘CalfAlive’, a collaboration between University of Queensland, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and more than a dozen producer partners across northern Australia.

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Increasing the uptake of performance recording genetics through automated livestock management systems

The future for genetic improvement in northern Australian beef herds requires more cattle to have more accurate, more frequent and more reliable performance measures. But in the extensive beef production systems typical of northern Australia there are significant costs associated with performance recording – this means that genetic improvement programs need to capture data at lower costs and with less labour.

This project is consolidating a range of technologies, algorithms and data management systems that have the potential to be used to automatically record cattle performance. This will provide the starting point for cattle producers to begin exploring a whole of business approach to automated data capture and analyses tools.

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Automated livestock management systems (ALMS) for Argentinian production systems

We are working with Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) and Latin American producer group CREA to trial the DataMuster walk-over-weigh system in Argentinian cattle operations to support improvements in on-farm productivity.

The project has identified enhancements to ALMS in order to customise these systems to Latin American beef production systems, while also building the capability of INTA to service the Argentinian industry in the area of ALMS.

Throughout the research project we have been working with Argentinean producers to participate in the trial and promoting trial results to the Argentinian industry.

View project summary

Professor Mark Trotter

Professor Mark Trotter is a leading researcher in the field of precision livestock management. With hands-on experience in the dairy and beef industries, and a background in agribusiness he brings a practical business emphasis to livestock research. His focus is on developing sensors and management systems that improve the production, efficiency, and sustainability of grazing livestock systems. Mark leads the Precision Livestock Management Group at CQUniversity. He is a Fulbright Scholarship recipient and holds adjunct appointments at The Ohio State University and Oklahoma State University.

Professor Simon Quigley

Ruminant nutrition researcher Simon Quigley is a Professor of Livestock and Animal Science in the Precision Livestock Management team. He leads CQ University’s delivery of a collaborative research capacity-building program with Sam Ratulangi University (UNSRAT) in Indonesia. Having worked primarily with beef cattle and more recently with goats, Professor Quigley’s research track record has contributed to improved nutritional management to increase productivity of ruminants across a range of production systems and environments. He also has active research interests in understanding the underlying biology.

Dr Jaime Manning

Dr Jaime Manning is a lecturer in Agriculture at CQUniversity Australia and an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellow. Jaime's main research interests are using and incorporating technology on-farm to improve the level of monitoring and welfare of livestock, whilst providing invaluable information into how we manage livestock and detect issues as they arise in extensive production systems. Currently, she teaches animal production, behaviour, welfare and new and emerging technologies and is also working with the Australia Wool Innovation testing smart sensor ear tag for predation and disease detection in sheep.

Dr Lauren O’Connor

Dr. Lauren O’Connor is a senior research officer with the Precision Livestock Management team at CQUniversity. Lauren completed undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Sydney before joining CQUniversity in 2014 to complete her PhD. Lauren’s research has focused on relationships between animal behaviour and productivity and the use of technologies to capture research data. Lauren is currently involved in projects that are developing remote monitoring systems for across various cattle production systems.

Dr Diogo Costa

Dr Diogo Costa is a senior researcher with the Precision Livestock Management (PLM) team, working on technology for sensing calving and calf loss. In 2021, Diogo was also awarded a prestigious Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship to evaluate dietary supplements that reduce methane emissions by using cutting-edge technology to efficiently add these compounds into livestock water supply. Diogo has a background in pasture agronomy and animal production with emphasis on ruminant nutrition.

Dr Thomas Williams

Dr Thomas Williams is a researcher in the Precision Livestock Management team at CQUniversity. His research has focussed on established and developing industries, assessing the interactions between parasites, wildlife hosts, farming practices, and livestock disease. More recently, Thom’s work has investigated novel therapeutics and point-of-decision diagnostic tools for improved cattle health and production outcomes in extensive and intensive systems. He now works on the development of remote monitoring technologies for the northern beef industry to enable evidenced-based outcomes in remote and rugged environments.

Dr Cara Wilson

Dr Cara Wilson is a Research Officer within the School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences at CQUniversity Australia. In 2020, Cara obtained her PhD from Charles Sturt University, in which she investigated the epidemiology and impacts of hydatid disease (Echinococcus granulosus) on the Australian beef industry. Cara’s main research interests are animal health and welfare within livestock production systems and using technology and data collection to monitor and manage these. She has a passion for conducting research that provides practical and sustainable outcomes to industry.

Dr Anita Z Chang

Dr. Anita Z. Chang is a senior postdoctoral research fellow with the Precision Livestock Management team at CQ University. Anita completed a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience (Hons I), majoring in Animal Production Science at The University of Sydney in 2017. More recently, Anita obtained a PhD in Precision Livestock Management from CQ University, with a thesis entitled “The remote, autonomous detection of calving and calf loss using on-animal sensing systems”. Anita has expertise in data analytics, livestock biomechanics and behaviour, and research in extensive grazing environments, and is an active collaborator with researchers in the United States. Her research interests include precision livestock management, cow-calf interactions, and livestock behaviour.

Dr Pat Colusso

Dr Patricia Colusso is a researcher in the Precision Livestock Management team at CQUniversity. She is currently working on the NB2 project which is assessing practical interventions to reduce calf wastage and herd mortality in northern grazing systems. Patricia obtained her PhD in 2022 from the University of Sydney, in which she evaluated a pre-commercial virtual fence technology for grazing dairy cattle. Patricia’s main research interests are in livestock health and welfare in intensive and extensive systems and the role technology has in monitoring and informing livestock management.

Jonathan Reid

Jonathan Reid is a PhD student at CQUniversity within the School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences. His PhD is investigating the detection of oestrus using sensor technologies within extensive beef production to provide producers a greater understanding of key fertility parameters. Jonathan completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours), majoring in animal science in 2021. His honours thesis involved using near-infrared spectroscopy to identify feed efficiency performance in tropically adapted steers using tail hair samples.

Justin Macor

Justin Macor is a PhD candidate within CQUniversity’s school of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences. Justin’s research investigates the possibility of detecting difficult calving events in extensively grazed beef cattle using on-animals sensing technologies. Justin completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) at the University of Queensland and majored in plant science after completing an Honours thesis which investigated the long-term changes in pasture composition under different grazing strategies.

Tek Raj Awasthis

Tek Raj Awasthis is a PhD student at CQUniversity. His research project is focused in developing the simulation modelling tools to enhance the genetic progression of cattle. Tek has completed a Master of Science (Microbiology) from Tribhuvan University, Nepal in 2015 and a Master of Science (Computer Science) from Federation University, Australia in 2019.

Carlos Sebastian Maglietti

Carlos Maglietti is a PhD student with the Precision Livestock Team at CQUniversity. His research project is focused on productive evaluation of automated weighing and feeding systems in Australia. Previously, Carlos worked as a researcher in the animal nutrition and meat quality group at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) on topics such as the effect of nutritional management on meat quality, intensive cattle fattening systems and the use of emerging technologies in livestock systems.

Grace Dendle

Grace Dendle is a technical officer in CQUniversity’s Precision Livestock Management team. She studied a Bachelor of Agriculture at CQUniversity, specialising in agribusiness and sustainable landscapes. Grace works across a range of research projects including silvopastoral trials of commercial pine plantations in north Queensland, sensor-based livestock traceability, livestock methane inhibitors supplemented through water supply and behavioural data collection of reproductive events to inform algorithm development.

Belmont Research Station

Owned by producer-group AgForce, the 3260-hectare “Belmont” is located 37km north of Rockhampton on the Fitzroy River. It delivers a unique collaborative approach by providing the ideal environment for research into livestock production in the tropics and sub-tropics of northern Australia, along with facilities for research and education. The station’s research and breeding program officially began in 1953 to develop new tick-resistant cattle breeds to replace the British Hereford and Shorthorn cattle herds, which then dominated grazing in northern Australia.

Central Queensland Innovation Research Precinct (CQIRP)

This facility originally opened in 1981 as the CSIRO JM Rendel Laboratories with work focussed on the tropically adapted cattle breeding. The labs operated in conjunction with CSIRO’s field research at nearby Belmont Research Station. They were named after James Meadows Rendel who moved from England to Australia in 1951 to join CSIRO and was appointed Chief of the Division of Animal Genetics in 1959. The JM Rendel labs closed in 2009 following Federal funding cuts to CSIRO. In 2011, CQUniversity invested $6M to purchase the facility and restore it to working order, with work focussed on agriculture, water and environmental management. A further $2.8M has since been invested in refurbishing and equipping the CQIRP precinct, including two new wet labs and two new dry labs, and back-up power to provide an emergency response centre for the campus.

The Central Queensland Livestock Centre of Excellence is a research partnership between CQUniversity Australia, AgForce Queensland, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and the Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA).

Our focus is to:

  • deliver improved on-farm productivity and practice change
  • work with producers in designing and undertaking R&D activities
  • and boost herd management, genetic performance and financial literacy.

We are unique in our ability to bring together the industry’s first integrated group of beef research sites in Central Queensland, encompassing the cattle production chain from stud, breeder and finisher operations and headquartered in the Beef Capital of Rockhampton.

Our research activities are framed by extensive producer engagement and projects are designed to include producer participants to guarantee the relevance of our solutions and encourage adoption.

Producers are involved from the start with producer-owned cattle used during proof of concept phase at the 'hubs', before technologies are deployed to private 'spoke' properties which act as remote demonstration sites for cattle communities to test systems in their own environments.