Using walk over weighing and remote camera monitoring to identify key management triggers and reduce costs

The objectives of the Richmond walk over weigh (WOW) project are to:

  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of walk over weighing equipment to help producers pinpoint timing of sale.
  • Identify trigger points for making key management decisions for timing of supplementation and gauge effectiveness of supplementation e.g. ‘when cattle liveweights plateau, start feeding supplement’ or ‘when pasture dry matter digestibility reaches 50%, start feeding’.
  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of remote camera equipment and remote water level sensing technologies to monitor water trough levels in extensive beef production systems.
  • Increase producer understanding of changes in pasture quality and subsequent impacts on animal liveweight performance.
  • Trial the effectiveness of different supplement regimes on weight gain.
  • Assess the effect that water aeration technologies have on weight gain.
  • Share knowledge and experience with the wider industry.

Background

For almost a decade, the Richmond walk over weigh (WOW) demonstration site has used WOW and auto-draft equipment to trial its economic benefit, as well as pinpoint the timing of dry season supplementation and marketing decisions. The site near Richmond was originally established in 2011 through the Meat & Livestock Australia co-funded WOW Producer Demonstration Site. The purchase of new WOW equipment in 2015, along with support from the Richmond Beef Challenge Producer Group (RBCPG), has enabled the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) to continue demonstrating innovative technologies and run evidence based trials.

Consultation with industry and DAF staff members has identified the need to improve liveweight data reliability by scaling up yard and paddock facilities and increasing cattle numbers at the site. Through the assistance and dedication of the RBCPG, the site was extended and fenced to accommodate more trial cattle.

The auto-drafting function of the Richmond WOW unit has enabled the sorting of animals into three different treatment groups to assess the effect of different management practices such as different supplementation regimes that are of interest to the producer group. In addition, several other complementary remote sensing technologies are being used at the Richmond WOW trial site. These include remote cameras that enable troughs and pasture biomass to be monitored, as well as tank and rain gauge sensors to measure water levels. Involvement in the RBCPG has allowed producers to experience first-hand the applications and decisions making opportunities presented by a WOW unit as well as other remote sensing technologies.

Progress to date

Previously, through the use of WOW technologies, in conjunction with crush-side manual weigh days, it was calculated that animals experience an average production loss of 6 kg/hd each time animals are weighed manually. Hence, the use of automated WOW technologies has allowed for timely sale decisions to be made, without the loss of production associated with mustering, drafting and weighing cattle.

The remote monitoring camera, focused on the water trough in conjunction with a remote tank level sensor has reduced labour needs and vehicle costs by reducing the frequency of ‘water runs’ to the paddock by the property manager.

In 2019, the RBCPG expressed interest in assessing the effect of water aeration, as well as the effect of molasses based supplementation on cattle performance. This led to the installation of a water aeration device on one of the troughs, with comparisons in terms of water quality and weight gain between a group of cattle with access to an aerated trough compared to cattle with access to a water trough without an added water aeration device.
Additionally, weight gain comparisons between groups of cattle with and without molasses based supplementation are also being assessed.

Contact: Kieran Smith kieran.smith@daf.qld.gov.au or Rebecca Gunther rebecca.gunther@daf.qld.gov.au

Where: Richmond, North Queensland

When: June 2011–ongoing

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