A mob of sheep at Barcaldine's Dunraven Station has become the first in Queensland to be fitted with smart ear tags in an Australian Wool Innovation and Central Queensland University joint project.
Lead researcher Jaime Manning visited the 25,495 hectare sheep and cattle station, 20km south-west of Barcaldine, with a small team earlier this month to fit the ear tags and install the tag readers.
The three-year project is testing AWI's smart sensor ear tags in the field to evaluate how suited they are for Australian conditions and to develop animal behaviour algorithms for use into the future.
Dr Manning said the first year of the trial is about collecting data on the retention rates for the ear tags.
"We'll really look at how well they stay in the ear and if they keep working to work out those rates," she said.
"AWI has already deployed these sensors on their research stations but I was very happy to be involved to test how they work on larger commercial properties.
"Western Queensland is a key area for us to see how the techology works out there with challenges associated with property size, the rugged terrain and connectivity issues.
"It's good to be able to do something that's under commercial conditions, reflecting real challenges in the sheep industry."
Dr Manning said the research would go on to delve into movement patterns associated with predators and illness to develop alerts that can be sent to producers, notifying them of potential problems affecting their sheep.
"We get the data in real time so even when I'm travelling for work I can see information about the movements of our sheep at CQU and the ones out at Dunraven Station," she said.
"This technology has lots of different possibilities. We'll be able to see things like centripetal movement, where the sheep come together in a group and try to get into the inside of the mob, trying to get away from wild dogs so this spiralling pattern will occur.
"We'll also be able to see if and when tags stop working."
Dr Manning said it was exciting that AWI had developed the smart ear tags.
"There's been a lot of research in this kind of space with cattle but not much information out there for sheep," she said.
Further research next year will see a post-doctoral researcher travel to Dunraven Station to look at how the sensors can be used to detect diseases such as Barber's Pole worm by looking at lack of activity associated with illness.
Producer Paul Doneley said it was great to be the first property in Queensland to be involved in the trial.
"You have things being tested down in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, where the blocks are smaller but up here in Queensland you're looking at 20,000 to 100,000 hectare places which might face different challenges," he said.
"These things have got to benefit both small and large scale operations."
Mr Doneley said wild dogs were a big problem for them, despite having some fencing.
"We will eventually down the track be able to get alerts if sheep are getting chased," he said.
"We might be able to address wild dogs a lot sooner if we know exactly what is happening and when."
Dunraven Station has been in Mr Doneley's family since 1909.
"We've got to embrace new technologies rather than shy away from them," he said.
"I'm really eager to embrace these changes early rather than sit back and wait for them. This way we can be involved in helping to develop these labour-saving methods."
The smart ear tags will be rolled out at more properties in Queensland and NSW in early 2020.