The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is trialling a new machine, which uses ‘optical sensors’ to analyse pastures.
The hand-held devices could revolutionise the way farmers evaluate their fields.
Will Green, farmer: “At the moment, we go out and do an eyeball estimation of the property to get a feed budget together to see if we can get through the spring with all our animals.”
“It’s only as accurate as I think it is,” adds farmer Richard Johnston, “and I guess the problem with that is that I have to make that assessment.”
Using satellite technology, the machine captures and measures the pasture’s cover or ‘biomass’.
This data is then translated into a number of measurements, to reflect the overall health of the feeding area.
Dr Matthew McDonagh, Meat and Livestock Australia: “This pasture optical sensor will allow farmers to understand how much pasture they’ve got on offer for their sheep and cattle and out of that, they can better plan how to manage those stock.
“We know that we’re losing about 50 AUD (32 euros) per hectare in lost production just through under-utilisation of the pasture that’s there. That’s around 50,000 AUD ($32,300 euros) of extra production of profitability returned to the producer off a thousand hectare block.”
The technology is being tested at five research sites across Australia over the next three years.
With plenty of interest from farmers, it’s hoped that it will be rolled out on a commercial scale.