Rural review: New technology ewe need

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E-technology for natural resource management (NRM) within the livestock industry was the key focus of the forum of The Angaston Annual Hogget Competition which was held on March 23. 

Virtual fencing is currently a topic of great interest in the industry and is proving to be beneficial for a variety of reasons, particularly, NRM practices. 

Dr Danila Marini from the CSIRO / University of New England began the forum with a presentation on her work in developing a virtual fence within the sheep industry. 

Given that this is a relatively new idea within this industry her work is still focused on research and development.

The overall aim of this product is to ensure greater grazing control and improved weed management through the use of technology. 

Danila’s main research interests are focused on animal behaviour and welfare around the collar to ensure that the welfare of the sheep is never jeopardised.

Danila explained how she went about teaching the sheep to respond to the collar. 

The technology uses sound and an averse stimulus to encourage the animals to keep within a designated boundary.

It was shown that the sheep learnt quickly to respond to the stimulus however there were certain variables such as temperament which influenced how quickly the animals learnt. 

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This technology still requires greater development however it is a product that will be beneficial to the sheep industry moving forward.

Although virtual fencing is yet to be implemented in the sheep industry it has definitely found its place in the cattle industry. 

Poppy McBain from Agersons was another keynote speaker who was able to provide insight on how the eShepherd is helping to evolve the cattle industry through virtual fencing.

The eShepherd is a welfare friendly device that is allowing farmers to monitor and muster livestock using a smartphone anywhere at any time. 

This product has had a lot of interest from NRM bodies due to the benefits it has when managing riparian systems.

Keeping cattle away from waterways is essential in order to reduce erosion and improve water quality and the eShepherd is able to create effective boundaries around these areas in a reasonably low cost and efficient manner. 

The commercial product will be launched at the 'Beef Australia' event in QLD in May.

The day also included interactive sessions with Michelle Cousins (Cousins Merino Services) who demonstrated electronic tagging for sheep and Pete Treloar who discussed how he has implemented the technology on his own property. 

By: Kate McCarthy, graduate consultant, Rural Solutions SA (PIRSA). Originally published by the BIGG Bulletin.