The web-based software ASKBILL is entering an exciting new final testing phase ahead of its commercial release to the sheep industry later this year.
It has been developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) to provide producers with timely and accurate predictions of sheep well-being and productivity using climate, stock and pasture information.
An extensive user trial of ASKBILL commenced last year, with the feedback provided by sheep producers and advisers around Australia critical to a raft of improvements and additions which go live on the system this week.
The most important change is the incorporation of short and long-term weather forecasts to complement actual measurements and the long-term historic averages.
Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the feedback provided to Sheep CRC development team by producers and farm advisers participating in the pilot trial, has directly resulted in a number of other changes to enhance ASKBILL’s performance.
“The changes include fewer and better-targeted alerts, faster synchronising of predictions, and new features such as feed budget predictions out to six months to help producers plan from joining to lambing in a single step,” he said.
Other new features added to ASKBILL include:
Predictions for carcase weight, fat coverage, and live weight for prime lambs finished on grass, with or without supplementation
Predictions for greasy fleece weights up to six months out from shearing
Inclusion of genetic information through the ability to import ram team Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs), and Flock Profile data from RamSelect to predict meat, fat, wool and live weight performance as flock genetics improve, and
Addition of long-range predictions of the risk of flystrike, out to six months in advance, to optimise planning of chemical applications.
“These new features will enhance the usefulness of ASKBILL for sheep producers, improving their ability to minimise risk and maximise flock wellbeing and productivity,” Prof. Rowe said.
The latest version of ASKBILL has been made live to the producer testing group for final validation ahead of the full commercial launch later this year.
Walcha grazier George Carter has participated in the testing process and has found ASKBILL invaluable in providing pasture forecasts to inform management decisions for meeting forward contracts for prime lambs.
“We can make sure those lambs hit their target specifications and if the forecast is that our pasture base will run short, we can plan the supplementary feeding of those animals to get them to the abattoir on time,” Mr Carter said.
“I can now budget with confidence knowing that my lambs are going to hit the market specifications. It’s all about making sure there’s no surprises.”