Could new technology change the way farmers manage pastures?

By Cutter Slagle

Change is coming!

According to scientists, in Australia, new sensor technology trials may alter (for the better) the way in which farmers measure and manage their pastures.

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Specifically, trials are currently underway to determine whether or not there is a usefulness of hand-held sensors in calculating pasture health. In charge of the project is Tony Butler. Butler comes from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture and believes that this new technology could help famers’ efficiency.

The technology and machines in question use light-reflecting sensors to measure the color of a pasture and its biomass. Afterwards, the data is translated into a number of simple measurements, ultimately reflecting the overall health of the pasture.  

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“We can then start determining how many stock and how long they are going to be in the paddock before you have to move them onto the next paddock,” Butler said. “It’s basically trying to make a quick, simple and effective timeless or efficient way of getting pasture biomass samples out there.”

Pasture health is extremely important when it comes to efficient farming. Meat and Livestock Australia’s Matthew McDonagh said this regarding the issue:

“It’s very important to producers that they understand the grass system that they have and the pastures that they have available for their sheep and cattle.”

Unfortunately, there is no such technology that allows farmers to determine how many head of stock to graze in a paddock. Right now, farmers often have to rely on their own observations when making these decisions.

Many believe that the system is inefficient and that change must happen.

However, the three-year trail is only in its early stages. But this optical sensor could eventually become a game changer for the industry.

“Producers will be able to get an objective assessment of pasture availability within their farm and they’ll be able to better manage their animals,” said Dr. McDonagh.

The trials should be completed in 2018, in which it’s hoped that technology will be rolled out on a commercial scale.

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[SOURCE: abc.net.au]

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