Effective livestock monitoring and management is crucial in facilitating farm efficiency, profitability and waste reduction. Paving the way with new technology in this area is Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), who have been undertaking a recent project to develop smart tags that enable woolgrowers to monitor and assess their stock in real time, from any location. They have further advanced this technology to allow the smart tags to undertake behaviour analysis of stock,  providing woolgrowers with real-time alerts when a welfare issue arises with one or a number of their animals.

To be able to use these tags, internet in the paddock is required. These smart tags utilise microwave technology which can be used to generate and send signals across both buildings and paddocks through point to point links. This is a potential solution for the addition of connectivity in paddocks through the deployment of cameras, sensors or real time smart tags.

The tags could be used for several purposes, such as monitoring the location and movement of individual sheep and mobs in the flock, and the distribution of the sheep within the paddock. This would be useful information if you want to know for example where and when the sheep prefer to graze, drink and shelter, or simply to know where you can locate the sheep. The tags have already proved to be very useful for monitoring the interactions between animals for mothering up.

In addition to these direct applications, smart tags could be used for several research and data analysis purposes to help woolgrowers optimise their flock’s productivity. For example, in relation to flystrike management, wild dog alerts, grazing optimisation, health alerts and reproduction optimisation. Being equipped with this comprehensive data enables woolgrowers to make ‘data informed decisions’.

Unlike passive RFID tags which are primarily used for identification, AWI’s smart tags allow for the continuous live streaming of data from activity, movement and proximity of the sheep. These tags will allow woolgrowers to make data-driven management decision through the analysis of both live and historical data. In the future, this technology will give woolgrowers the power to intervene more quickly, reducing wastage in management and facilitating greater farm efficiency and profit.

In a demonstration utilising 20 sheep on Day Two of TECHSPO, AWI will be able to showcase location detection, activity and movement in real-time, as well as the streaming and recording of basic behaviour such as walking, grazing and standing. We will also be able to know about the relation between ewes and lambs (mothering up).

Farmers will have the unique opportunity to understand the practical applications of this technology for their farms and their livestock during this hands-on demonstration.