The powerful predictive technology of the ASKBILL app is now ready for sheep producers across Australia to use after it’s commercial launch today at LambeEx, Perth.
It was launched by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC).
ASKBILL www.askbill.com.au is an online tool that provides timely and accurate predictions for sheep wellbeing and productivity using climate, stock and pasture information.
Speaking at the launch of ASKBILL at the LambEx breakfast seminar, Lewis Kahn of the University of New England, Armidale, said what is unique about ASKBILL is it is customised to a particular farm, and it not only looks backwards, but looks forwards.
“It is taking as much data that we can get hold of in a way that makes it easy for farmers – we are not asking for them to input very much information at all once they set up their farm,” Mr Kahn said.
“Everyday the climate forecasts are updated and the predictions in terms of what is happening with sheep and pastures are being updated – that is what makes this a different product.”
Mr Kahn said when the trial was launched about 16 months ago 150 registrations were used to provide commercial environment which then gave them a large number of users that they could engage with.
“We could find out what they liked and didn’t like. Not just about the predictions, but the way we had structured the interface including the words and fonts we used and the ease of navigation,” he said.
He said it is very much user focused and about giving sheep producers what they want.
“Our goal like most is to not ever rely on a manual, so it is intuitive. Over that period of time we have made a lot of changes that have improved the usability greatly,” Mr Kahn said.
“We have heard what they want in terms of key predictions, pasture and live weight to be able to link into production, wellbeing and reproduction – and they want it done easily without increasing workforce.”
WA sheep breeder Brad Wooldridge, Arthur River, spoke at the launch about his experiences in using ASKBILL during the Sheep CRC trial work.
He runs 2200 ewes across two properties in southern WA located 220 kilometers apart.
“I have been travelling 1500km a week to feed sheep there, which is a lot of driving but it has been a decision backed by the alerts from ASKBILL,” he said.
“It was like having a sheep expert in the paddock with you everyday.
“It is easy to use, you put in your type of sheep and then enter relevant information like when you drench them.
“I do all of that on my desktop and all the phone app does is send me an alert when I am not going to reach a target or when there is a risk coming up.”
Mr Wooldridge said the real breakthrough for him is you can set targets that you want to achieve such as lamb weights or ewe condition score and it then predicts if you are going to hit them or not.
“So instead of waiting for something like flystrike to happen it will let you know looking forward there is likely to be a flystrike, so you have time to plan the treatment and withholding periods,” he said.
“You can just get out there and and do the job. There is no panic involved”.
Eleven properties were used as validation properties where the Sheep CRC team conducted intensive measurements through WA, South Australia, southern and northern NSW over a 12-month period with terminal, maternal and Merinos using different pasture types and a production environments.
Mr Kahn said this has meant that they have created a massive data set.
“We are able to look at a lot of case scenarios and be able to explore making the models even more robust,” Mr Kahn said.
ASKBILL can be combined with Sheep CRC’s RamSelect system and DNA test range. Data would only need to be entered once in one application to access benefits from all platforms.
ASKBILL is now available online for sheep producers throughout Australia at an annual subscription of $110/year.