ASKBILL answers producers’ most important questions

ASKBILL answers farmers' important questions

Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe

Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe


PREDICTING weather conditions and the direct impact seasonal changes have on enterprises is the crystal ball every farmer wants to own.


PREDICTING weather conditions and the direct impact seasonal changes have on enterprises is the crystal ball every farmer wants to own.

Flystrike threats, feed production and optimal joining times all hinge on climate predictions, which is why this week, the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) launched web-based app, ASKBILL.

It has been designed to draw on information generated by biophysical models that use daily downloads of climate data and forecasts to provide estimates for individual farms of the risk of flystrike and parasite infection, likely pasture production, livestock nutritional requirements and feed budgets, as well as risks associated with extreme weather events.

“It will enable individual properties to manage climatic variation and seasonal variation more effectively. “ Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said.

“Producers will be able to adjust stocking rates in a timely way, and also treat animals against impending risks, be that internal parasites, worms, or flystrike.

“It will be make sheep production much easier to manage because you will be more confident in predicting risks and be able to be pre-emptive in your management response - current systems are much more reactive.”

The product has taken Sheep CRC just one year to develop, in collaboration with the Data to Decisions CRC, the Bureau of Meteorology and the University of New England.

Producers are required to specify the grazing area, stocking numbers, what type of mobs are being monitored, such as twin bearing ewes, and characteristics of pasture.

Dr Rowe said the app could produce detailed data about livestock, pastures, and predicting opportunities and threats to individual business from the weather, pests or disease.

“These predictions are the critical information producers need for making more precise farming decisions, for protecting the wellbeing of your flock and for maximising its productivity,” he said.

Farmers are also required to specify the type of soil and details of farming management schedule, including joining dates and shearing dates, for the model to predict the animals requirement and risks associated throughout the year.

“Each day the model is updated to reflect the changing requirements of the animals, changing seasonal conditions and the impact that has on farms’ production and risks the animal faces,” he said.  

Cootamundra based farm adviser Anthony Shepherd, of Sheepmatters, said ASKBILL was not about telling producers how to manage their flocks, but complementing their existing knowledge and management strategies by understanding risks prior to events occurring.

“They can then be on the front foot with management strategies, rather than reacting after the damage has been done,” Mr Shepherd said.

 “ASKBILL will help prevent risks from things like flies and worms or cold snaps, and that will also help the bottom line.”

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