Pasture intake data is vital to productivity gains
Production efficiency in the grass-fed beef sector is a key focus for the industry's transformation. It provides the most cost effective way to grow production and profitability whilst achieving reduced greenhouse gas emissions intensity.
In the livestock sector, efficiency can be measured as a ratio of inputs to outputs, or as feed consumed to kilograms of meat produced or calves weaned. However, on-farm productivity gains by the grass fed beef sector have been static at approximately 0.5 per cent per annum for the past 15 years. To maintain international competitiveness the on-farm sector needs to lift productivity gain to around 2.5 per cent per annum.
Two possible solutions to this problem are the development of breeding strategies to identify animals with genetically superior feed efficiency, or the application of advanced livestock management strategies based on accurate, real-time information on animal performance. These can both be achieved by measuring intake of pasture by individual cattle in the grazing environment. However, this has previously been a difficult and time consuming process, which has prevented measurement on a scale required to obtain meaningful data.
Real-time data on a mass scale
CSIRO in collaboration with the NSW Department of Primary Industries has developed the eGrazor – a device that determines pasture intake by cattle based on behavioural information.
The solar powered system's sensors are worn by grazing livestock, and collect real-time behavioural data that can be interpreted to inform management strategies for sustainable livestock production systems. Operation of the system requires minimal labour, and once deployed the cattle are free to return to their grazing environment.
Accelerated production opportunities
The eGrazor approach offers new opportunities to efficiently collect data to measure and define novel traits in cattle.
Successful adoption of this technology will improve the precision of nutritional and other management strategies, and accelerate the rate of genetic gain for feed efficiency in grazing cattle.