New technology described as a “fitbit for a cow combined with a virtual fence” will hit the market later this year, taking grazing to a whole new level.
Ian Reilly, chief executive officer of Agersens, said the Livestock Virtual Shepherd involved the grazier using their phone or table to create a fence from a grazing program, and moving the fence or stock from that device.
“The farmer uses their tablet to create a fence or move stock and instructions are sent to a collar on each animal, through a base station on the farm,” Mr Reilly said.
“The base station wirelessly connects to each collar and sends instructions and the collar is autonomous and watches over each animal.
“We are calling it a virtual shepherd because fencing is only a small part of that.
“It’s about control grazing and monitoring stock, so doing what a shepherd would have done 100 years ago by living and watching stock 24/7.”
Mr Reilly, a product developer and entrepreneur from Melbourne, said while the concept had been around for around 30 years, the product would be the first of its kind in the world.
“The CSIRO did proof of principle research work and we are turning that into a production version that can be used in mass volume,” Mr Reilly said.
“It uses audio sound as a cue instead of a physical cue.
“One of the barriers to adoption has been core technology of GPS tracking, battery life and wireless connectivity, and all of those have changed dramatically in the last five years.”
Mr Reilly said there were several benefits for northern beef producers.
“We can muster stock using this so you can eliminate the need for helicopters and a large ground crew, eliminate animal injuries and workplace accidents,” Mr Reilly said.
“It enables large-scale farmers to control graze their livestock to maximise productivity.”
The system will also help control stock access to waterways and national parks, and has sparked interest from natural resource management groups in Queensland including NQ Dry Tropics, Northern Gulf NRM and the Fitzroy Basin Authority, to help them better protect waterways and prevent run-off onto the reef.
The system will be launched in September, and Mr Reilly said the first year would involve on-farm trials in Australia, New Zealand and other countries.
However, cost may be an impediment initially, with each collar expected to cost around $100.
But Mr Reilly said increases in stocking rates by 20 per cent would pay for the system “in one year”.
“It initially will suit producers that can make a significant cost reduction or improvement in productivity,” Mr Reilly said.