New pasture intake sensor added to smart ear tag to improve cattle productivity

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Ceres Tag, a leader in livestock information systems using data from a proprietary smart ear tag, has expanded its extensive analytics and diagnostic range of animal performance health and welfare capabilities with the launch of eGrazor – a new sensor and pasture intake algorithm developed by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, to monitor cattle behaviour, location and interactions.

Ceres Tag is the world’s first and only commercial direct-to-satellite traceability and animal welfare platform powered by a smart ear tag that provides GPS location, health and welfare monitoring, and theft detection.

And now, CSIRO, together with NSW Department of Primary Industries, has added an eGrazor sensor to develop algorithms that can monitor a range of cattle behaviours – most notably the amount of pasture consumed by individual grazing animals. The algorithms, along with the accurate measurement of pasture intake, holds the key to more efficient cattle through the precise monitoring of feed efficiency, providing valuable phenotypic data to aid in selection decisions.

Intake measurements calculated on Ceres Tags will help boost production efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the grass-fed beef sector

Intake measurements calculated on Ceres Tags will help boost production efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the grass-fed beef sector

On-farm productivity boost

Research indicates that 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 in the grass-fed beef sector have been static at approximately 0.5% per annum for the past 15 years. To maintain international competitiveness, the grass-fed sector needs to lift productivity gain to around 2.5% per annum to remain competitive.

Two possible solutions to this problem are the development of breeding strategies to identify animals genetically superior in 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 on individual cattle in the grazing environment. The resulting data offer farmers access to previously unavailable knowledge to help them make more informed decisions, due to the new technology’s ability to remotely monitor and transfer the information without the need for costly infrastructure investment. Operation of Ceres Tags requires minimal labour, no infrastructure, no maintenance and once deployed, the cattle are free to return to their grazing environment, according to the company.

Offering new opportunities to efficiently collect data to measure and define novel traits in cattle not previously available on a commercial scale, Ceres Tag says the adoption of eGrazor will help farmers improve management strategies and accelerate the rate of genetic gain for feed efficiency in grazing cattle – adding valuable dollars to bottom-line profitability.

The company plans to offer eGrazor capability as standard on all livestock Ceres Tags, and will be available for purchase from the Ceres Tag e-commerce website from May 2021, in boxes of 24 tags.

Making decisions on your herd with this information will mean significant dollars directly to the bottom line of any livestock operation,” said David Smith, CEO, Ceres Tag. “It has been likened to the holy grail of the pasture fed livestock industry. We have been working in collaboration with CSIRO for many years in technology development and adding eGrazor and the behaviour monitoring algorithms was a natural extension to the existing advanced algorithm capability of the Ceres Tag platform.”

CSIRO’s Dr Greg Bishop-Hurley, eGrazor project leader, explained that eGrazor is one of the first systems to estimate pasture consumed by grazing livestock and calculate their efficiency: “Developing advanced tech like eGrazor requires a diverse team with a wide range of skills including hardware and software engineers, data scientists, machine learning specialists and pasture and animal scientists. CSIRO, NSW Department of Primary Industries and Ceres Tag make a very successful team.”

Feed intake strongly correlates with methane and carbon dioxide output, so strategies such as genetic selection aimed at reducing intake while maintaining and improving productivity can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” concluded Dr Paul Greenwood, a scientist and livestock systems expert with NSW Department of Primary Industries.

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