Farm Management

A new kind of farmhand takes to the skies

Monitoring a mob of sheep can be done over a morning cup of tea in the paddock thanks to the latest in agricultural remote monitoring technology.

And for sheep and wool producers managing large operations, this means saving time and money on physically demanding jobs, while providing an unparalleled perspective of the paddock.

That was the message delivered by drone specialist and ANDAIR Managing Director, Andy McWatters, who showcased the latest in drone technology to producers and advisors at the recent Leading Sheep remote monitoring workshops in Queensland.

ANDAIR was one of several technology companies that demonstrated remote monitoring equipment, including technology for monitoring water and electric fences, as well as cameras and drones.

Mr McWatters said drones were pegged as the future workhorses of the farming sector.

“Whether it’s inspecting fence lines or bores or controlling noxious pests, there is a drone ready to do the job,” he said.

“Farmers are finding new ways to use the technology every week. Their use is only limited by our imagination.”

A drone functions by connecting through a smartphone or tablet using an app, which shows a farmer high quality vision and allows them to zoom in on areas within entire paddocks in real time.

The view from a drone is likened to standing atop at least a 50 metre ladder to survey paddocks.

Companies like ANDAIR are developing applications for drones in everything from rounding up cattle to checking crops and the monitoring of breeding habits in ewes.

Fitted with remote sensors, some drones can make an assessment of crops much faster than a farmer walking through a field in boots, or driving through in a ute.

Drones provide access to hard to reach locations which means less wear and tear on vehicles and equipment and lowers the risk to employees working in those areas.

For animal management, drones can be used for feral animal spotting and control, monitoring livestock, conducting animal health checks and mustering.

“The feedback we are getting from producers at these workshops is that they are finding the drones easy to use and easily transportable to different locations on-farm,” Mr McWatters said.

“But like all new technology, there are some limitations to flying drones that producers need to be mindful of. They can’t be used in poor weather, especially rain and strong winds so it’s important to use common sense if there’s rain on the radar.

“In addition, drones must be kept in line of sight when in use, usually they can be seen out to about one kilometre away from the operator and should not be flown at night. Batteries also take about two hours to charge,” he said.

QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries senior extension officer and Leading Sheep project manager Nicole Sallur said there was an increasing interest in the use of drones because of their ability to help farmers make informed decisions.

“The use of drone technology is providing producers with rapid access to information that can potentially assist them to boost production and efficiency, lower input costs and ensure sustainability,” she said.

Mr McWatters will also be presenting and demonstrating drone technology at a StockTech field day run by Leading Sheep and South West Natural Resource Management in Quilpie on 19 October. 2017.

“We have a range of products and systems that will be on site to increase farmer awareness of what technology is available and drones and accessories will be available to purchase on the day,” Mr McWatters said.

Leading Sheep is a joint initiative of Australian Wool Innovation and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland, supported by AgForce.

It is a proactive network of Queensland sheep and wool businesses at the forefront of practical and relevant information and technology, to equip progressive and thriving producers for the future.

Source: QLD DAF

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