Improving productivity, profitability, sustainability, and animal health and welfare of extensive and intensive beef cattle production using automatic monitoring and management systems

Summary

The Livestock in Future Landscapes Program seeks to understand how livestock interact with the environment and how these interactions determine the efficiency of production (growth, reproduction), both of individual animals and groups. New information on livestock in landscapes will be used to select animals and develop management systems that optimize the efficiency of resource utilization and adapt to climate variability and climate change. The ‘landscape’ includes extensive grazing systems (range, pastoral) and intensive feeding systems (feedlot). The Livestock in Future Landscapes Program aims to contribute new knowledge on natural resource management, sustainability, and adaptation and mitigation to climate change. A feature of livestock production is the large variation in the performance of groups of animals or herds, and individual animals within a herd. The basis of this variation is not fully understood but encompasses a range of adaptations of individuals through behaviour, metabolic efficiency, health status, and social interactions influenced by genetics, environment and management. An elucidation of the major determinants of individual and group performance is required in order to develop production systems that optimally utilise valuable resources. Robotic and other remote measuring and monitoring technologies would significantly enhance the scientific quality of the information needed to improve management. This area of research aims to develop integrated farming systems using remote sensing and communications and information technologies.

Supervisor(s)

Associate Professor Luciano Gonzalez

Research Location

Sydney Institute of Agriculture - Camden campus

Program Type

Masters/PHD

Synopsis

A range of projects are available in the fields of remote monitoring and management systems using latest technology including ‘remote cattle sensor stations’ able to measure live weight of individual animals, body condition and body temperature. The objectives of these projects are three-fold: 

  1. Improve our scientific understanding of animal biology as a result of interactions with the environment and management, and understanding the factors driving animal productivity and landscape use 
  2. Improve production efficiency of livestock and mixed crop-livestock production systems through the integration of data streams flowing from different sensors and advanced prediction and simulation models 
  3. Develop commercial applications including automatic detection of health and welfare problems, nutritional management, genetic selection, reproductive management, and economics 

Some of the technologies available in these projects include: remote weighing stations to measure animal production (live weight and growth rate) and welfare, 3D scanners and lasers to measure body condition in relation to animal welfare, meat quality and reproduction, sensors to remotely monitor animal location and behaviour in the landscape to study animal-environment-management interactions important for grazing land management and animal welfare, infrared thermography to measure body temperature. Data collected by these sensors and others that monitor the environment are integrated through models to improve the precision of decision making processes and the efficiency of utilization of natural resources. Environmental sensors include weather stations, soil and water sensors, satellite imagery and optical sensors to measure vegetation type and abundance.

Additional Information

This project will be based at the Faculty of Science’s Centre for Carbon, Water and Food, Camden


HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Keywords

cattle, animal production, sustainability, technology, automation, remote monitoring, rangelands, feedlot, animal behaviour

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1897

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