New project balancing profit and pasture use

E-Beef Smart Farm project gains traction in Queensland


Beef
Sizing up the walk-over-weigh machine at Dalmore Station, near Longreach.

Sizing up the walk-over-weigh machine at Dalmore Station, near Longreach.

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The "smart farming" project focuses on land management.

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Helping beef producers boost profitability without flogging their land is one of the goals at the heart of a "smart farming" initiative in western and northern Queensland.

The E-Beef Smart Farm Project was founded by Southern Gulf NRM and is being run in partnership with Desert Channels Queensland, Northern Gulf NRM and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Six demonstration cattle properties will be involved in the project, with the data collected at these stations made available to others through innovation hubs.

The first three properties taking part are Dalmore in Longreach, Redcliffe in Hughenden and Mount Surprise Station.

One part of the project has been the installation of walk-over-weigh technology, which shows how cattle live weight is responding to pasture consumption in real-time.

E-Beef project officer Kate Paterson said the E-Beef project aimed to pair cattle and land management with technology, letting producers make more-informed decisions.

"By participating in the project, graziers will find new and innovative technologies to improve grazing land management, adaptability to seasonal conditions and business profitability," she said.

"It creates an initiative for people to read their land better and to see the impact on their financial situation. An example will be landholders tracking pasture quality with live weight gains. This provides real-time information to make grazing decisions."

Dalmore Station, one of three demonstration properties currently involved in the E-Beef project.

Dalmore Station, one of three demonstration properties currently involved in the E-Beef project.

Data collected through the walk-over-weigh will be paired with business benchmarking and other information such as satellite data showing ground cover.

Although there would only be six demonstration properties, innovation hubs would help ensure that useful information is spread more widely, Ms Paterson said.

"We can't give every single property a walk-over-weigh, if we could, we would.

"But people with similar land types or similar areas that also run similar classes of cattle can still apply the data collected from the Smart Farm project and make more informed decisions if they follow similar grazing practices or techniques."

Dalmore owner Richard Simpson from Simstock Rural Agencies said the walk-over-weigh technology could help with management decisions, such as when to send cattle for lot feeding.

"By recording animal weights as they come in for watering, we can monitor the weight gains of our feeder cattle, and only make management decisions when the weight gains of the cattle begin to plateau out or decrease," he said.

"When it is noticed that cattle reach a peak weight range - i.e set for feedlotting - the system can then be used to automatically draft the cattle upon exiting the walk-over-weigh system."

This, in turn, contributed to a more efficient beef enterprise, Mr Simpson said.

"This ultimately results in increased production of the livestock and efficiency in management, through less physical mustering and drafting processes.

"It also enables us to also monitor pasture level and the correlation to the animal production, and also the financial aspects of the production system.

"There is the future potential for other properties in the surrounding area to utilise such similar data to aid in their business."

Expressions of interest for the next round of Smart Farms and innovation hubs will open shortly, with the goal of having these projects up and running by late July or August.

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