Steven and Rebecca Cadzow of Mt Riddock, a cattle property 200 kilometres north east of Alice Springs, are pioneering Remote Livestock Management System (RLMS) technology with the first privately owned walk over weighing platform and automatic draft gates, used in conjunction with telemetry and satellite mapping of pasture.
The Cadzows run 11,500 head of poll Hereford cattle on 2,260 square kilometres, with cattle sold mainly to domestic markets – feedlots and slaughter in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales as well as some live export to Russia and Kazakhstan. In the past decade they have moved from continuous to rotational grazing, largely to improve their pasture as well as reduce the fire risk in their Buffel grass country.
“We attended a GrazingforProfit™ school about ten years ago and realised the benefits of rotational grazing so along with a Department of Agriculture initiative, we implemented a grazing trial and separated two paddocks into eight smaller ones,” says Rebecca. “We also introduced a telemetry system with our water points and more recently, a remote livestock management system which allows us to monitor daily weight gains.”
The Cadzows investigated RLMS technology at a 21st Century Pastoralism Project field day seven years ago and recognised its potential benefits for their operation. The Precision Pastoral Management Tools (PPMT) project began five years ago and is part of the CRC for Remote Economic Participation which expands the research, development and commercialisation of the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre and combines remotely collected animal and pasture data into a management decision support system.
First, the Cadzows invested in a telemetry system at a bore 80 kilometres from their house, which they had previously travelled to at least once a day to start a diesel pump. The new system, which is fully automated and remotely monitored, has reduced labour, diesel and travel costs.
“The first telemetry point paid for itself within the first week,” Rebecca adds. The Cadzows have since expanded the telemetry to all thirty of the station’s water points, which work through UHF radio. “We haven’t looked back and it’s used every day. It’s important to find a system that suits your purpose and the ease of operation with telemetry allowed us to move into other RLMS technology.”
They purchased a walk over weigh platform through Precision Pastoral Pty Ltd last year at a cost of $24,000 and gathered data on stock over summer. “We hoped to achieve less weight loss; we had worked out that with a normal muster and putting them through the yards we had a weight loss of up to 11kgs per beast.” The Cadzows estimate that by reducing that weight loss the machine has paid for itself within a year. “Where can you make at least $33 per head without lifting a finger?” Steven says.
Currently, there are 410 steers in their rotational grazing system of eight paddocks (four paddocks are 1,100 hectares, while the other four are about 500 hectares), which is located 80kms from the house. All paddocks work off a central watering point with an in trap and stock are weighed and drafted remotely when they come in to water.
“It’s a great marketing tool; we can lock into markets because we know exactly how many cattle we have and their weight. As well as that it’s provided a reduction in labour, cattle stress and weight loss. They pay for themselves so quickly – it takes out the guesswork for sale so we can better manage other parts of the business,” Rebecca explains.
Steve and Rebecca analyse data on individual animals as well as the whole group. “I like seeing the spread and we look at the ones that aren’t doing so well (sick or lame) and can draft them off and apply animal husbandry. We can make sure that our cattle are on a rising plane of nutrition. Once the growth steadies you know it’s time to move them and we can pick optimum market times.
“We aren’t technologically advanced people – we used a company with very good service and they can log into our system if we have any problems. Tim Driver of Precision Pastoral Pty Ltd gave us a thorough demonstration on the software and regularly provides updates. The only teething issues were moving it from one trap yard to the other but we are building a trailer for ease of movement.”
The time saving on mustering and drafting has allowed the Cadzows to concentrate on increasing their rotational grazing at Mt Riddock with plans to extend into a 12 paddock system for females which incorporates walk over weighing. In conjunction with their remote livestock management system, the Cadzows are using satellite mapping through Precision Pastoral Management Tools which indicates pasture quality and where they have received rainfall.
“We use a graph that ties satellite imagery with our feed budget and growth rates and extend that to work out optimum time for sale. It gives you the best time for sale before they start plateauing.” The Cadzows incorporated the two systems at the end of 2015.
Sally Leigo, Principal Research Leader of PPMT says they hope to further satellite mapping capability to monitor pasture quantity as well as quality. “Producers don’t have to collect the data, it’s all done remotely and there’s no interference. It’s factual and reflects what’s in the paddock.”
RCS Next Steps coach and consultant Raymond Stacey says: “It’s great to see the practical use of this technology in an extensive rangeland situation. The ability to have animal performance information on an ongoing basis makes decisions on animal and land management and marketing programmes precise, timely and cost effective. Linking the walk over weigh with remote drafting will be a big cost saving. The satellite remote sensing data of pastures can also be verified via the animal performance measured through the walk over weighing.”
For further information about the Precision Pastoral Management Tools
Principal Research Leader
Phone: 08 89518144
Facebook: Precision Pastoral Management Tools Project
Precision Pastoral Pty Ltd
0400 302 262