A western Victorian sheep and cattle producer is urging others to use on-farm data and digital technology to help make informed pasture management decisions.
Jonathan Jenkin runs 3500 composite ewes and 400 Poll Hereford breeders in Penshurst and he believes the array of online management tools available to producers has rapidly grown in the last five to 10 years.
Speaking at AgriWebb's recent Sheep Innovation Day, Mr Jenkin said it was important to filter the good from the bad so you could determine what could actually be applied on farm.
"With lots of apps and tools around, where do they all fit in terms of actually using them on farm and getting real value out of them?" he said.
Before getting started with this technology, he said it could be beneficial to get involved with local pasture management groups or participate in practical courses like the Lifetime Ewe Management course.
"Getting familiar and understanding your feed on offer, your pasture quality and pasture score is a really great start," he said.
"If we combine that information and literature, we can overlay it with some of this evolving technology."
Mr Jenkin offered his top three most valuable online tools that were free for producers to access and use.
He said a data source that a lot of farmers were familiar with was the Bureau of Meteorology.
But he said the next step a farmer could take was downloading the CliMate app.
"They've developed this great intuitive tool which enables you to put in information of where your exact location is in relation to your nearest weather station, and then you can ask questions like how often do you receive two inches of rainfall over a month period, and it's able to present that information," he said.
"I can also see how this season's been tracking, compared to 50 seasons of data."
He said it was a great tool because it enabled producers to compare current conditions to the short, medium and long-term average.
"It helps you get a feel for potentially how some of these big hits in the climate we're receiving, whether there's a trend you can pick up that influences how you manage your pastures," he said.
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Mr Jenkin's next big tool was Data Farming.
"It provides different satellite images, which are freely available, where you can look at the greenness levels within your paddocks," he said.
"This is done at a level that our eyes can't pick up, yet through satellite, they're able to filter it through and give an indication of how your paddocks are performing from a bird's eye view."
He said you could download the image and use it in different mapping systems.
"You can look at it over time at how you might be seeing some changes and how quickly some of your pastures are getting going and whether you're having any issues with waterlogging," he said.
"You're getting a bird's eye view in the context of how it's all going.
"It enables you to draw out the border of your property and hone in on it in the map."
Mr Jenkin said the resources available through Meat & Livestock Australia were also incredibly useful.
"Through your levies you'll have access to myMLA, [which is a dashboard] you can customise in terms of accessing different data and having either just sheep information or cattle information or both," he said.
"You can draw in on different market information, in terms of accessing different data and historical trend information in regards to livestock markets."
He said with an array of tools out there, it was crucial producers built a toolkit that suited them.
"Invest some time in having a look and getting a feel for what fits into your farming system," he said.
"One year might work better than the other but it's all worth it in the end."
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