Walking down the main street of any Australian community, it is easy to see the widespread use of digital technology in the day-to-day life of most individuals. From smart phones to computers, televisions to satellites, technology has become firmly embedded in 21st century society.
This essay will use AuctionsPlus and the Precision Pastoral Management System as two case studies to demonstrate how innovations in digital technology can influence the agri-community and increase agricultural sustainability.
AuctionsPlus is an online auction platform through which farmers can buy and sell livestock. It offers a digital alternative to the traditional method of buying and selling stock through physical saleyards. Under the AuctionsPlus system, certified agents are required to assess and photograph livestock on-farm. Buyers are then able to browse a wide range of auction ‘lots’ online and, during a certain timeframe, place bids on their preferred pens. It facilitates livestock trading while removing the necessity of the seller, buyer and product physically coming together at the point of sale (AuctionsPlus 2016).
Agricultural sustainability has already improved in response to AuctionsPlus. Firstly, better animal welfare is promoted through the assessment of stock on-farm, removing the need for them to be trucked to and handled in a saleyard setting. This, in turn, results in a less stressed, better performing animal. Secondly, the use of digital technology has streamlined livestock trading, enabling more time to be spent on-farm. Graziers no longer have to set aside an entire day to drive to and buy stock from the saleyards. With a couple of clicks of the mouse button during their morning tea break, a grazier can buy 200 yearling steers and carry on with business as usual for the remainder of the day. This is especially important in a country like Australia where the vast distances between regional centres can create isolated market ‘bubbles’. Finally, the reach of on-farm business has been dramatically increased through the AuctionsPlus online platform. Rather than doing business within the previously mentioned market ‘bubbles’, primary producers can now easily buy and sell livestock across the length and breadth of Australia. Increased business scope may further result in more opportunities for individual business owners, helping the continuity of smaller, family-owned farms.
Not only are technological innovations changing how primary producers buy and sell livestock, they are also transforming on-farm animal management in certain parts of Australia. The Precision Pastoral Management System uses a combination of real-time pasture growth data captured by satellites as well as weight changes in stock collected by automatic walk-over scales to provide producers with an accurate snapshot of their paddock and herd health (Nason 2016). This information enables managers to take a pro-active, rather than reactive, approach to supplementation as paddock feed quality and quantity starts to decline. Implementing an early and informed supplementation program may prevent costly weight loss while simultaneously maintaining herd health. This is particularly important for geographically extensive stock operations where it is difficult and time consuming to accurately determine the amount and quality of feed left in a paddock from the back of a motorbike or utility window.
It is important to stay abreast of new ideas and technologies in this era of digitisation. Failure to do so may place businesses at a competitive disadvantage both locally and nationally. Innovative programs such as AuctionsPlus and the Precision Pastoral Management System have real potential to introduce widespread change to the trading and management of livestock within the agricultural sector. Both programs have already improved on-farm sustainability through the promotion of healthier, less stressed livestock, better time management for the producer and increased business scope – factors that all contribute to the bottom line and competitiveness of individual businesses and the agricultural economy as a whole.
AuctionsPlus. 2016. AuctionsPlus: Australia’s Online Saleyard. Retrieved from <www.auctionsplus.com.au>
Nason, J. (2016, September 15). Managing cattle by satellite: How it’s happening in the north. Retrieved from <www.beefcentral.com>
Louisa Cameron was a Leading Contender in NFF's essay competition. Louisa is a cattle farmer from Goondiwindi. Louisa’s essay explored two case studies that highlighted the impact of innovative technologies such as digital trading of livestock in improving animal welfare outcomes.