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Beef Research Reaps Rewards

From breeding the most productive cattle for tropical Australian conditions to developing digital technology to track cattle using a computer or smartphone, the Belmont Research Station has been at the forefront of agricultural research for more than sixty years.

The first cattle breeding experiments began at the station back in 1953, with the research leading to the release of the breed known as the Belmont Red in the 1960s, which has been used to improve fertility, meat quality and tick resistance in northern herds.

Today, researchers from CQUniversity have moved beyond the early pioneering work on cross breeding and adaption to develop new digital technology using wireless sensors and a web based app to monitor and track the location and movement of cattle across the property.

CQUniversity Australia’s Professor Dave Swain, who leads the university’s Precision Livestock Management research program, said producers were increasingly turning to digital technologies to help look after their herds.

“Technology that allows farmers to automatically monitor their livestock means they will be able to collect more information with less effort. Linking the information to automatic management systems will further reduce the time farmers spend working cattle,” he said.

“It all helps to reduce labour costs and improve productivity by allowing producers to make great management decisions from their office rather than out in the paddock.”

CQUniversity’s ‘Data Muster’ integrates multiple strands of technology including walk-over-weighing systems that monitor pregnancy status and growth rates of herds, telemetry systems which check water points, and data systems which automatically capture, analyse and report via an online app.

Initial analysis by CQUniversity, Meat and Livestock Australia, and CSIRO have identified that users can achieve:

  • 2.5% price premiums by optimizing cattle weights to fit with market specifications;
  • 5% increase in average sale weights due to improved timeliness of sale to negate weight loss at muster; and
  • Early identification of non-performing animals requiring health treatment or replacement.

Having tested the concept at Belmont Research Station, CQUniversity is starting on-property trials this year and is seeking expressions of interest from producers willing to trial Data Muster and the associated hardware supporting the automated performance recording and benchmarking system.

AgForce General President Grant Maudsley said the CQUniversity research was an example of the benefits flowing to the beef industry from AgForce’s investment in the Belmont Research Station.

“Whether it is the cattle breeding experiments from the 1950s and 1960s through to digital technology trials today, the aim of the research conducted at Belmont is and has always been the same – to improve the productivity and profitability of Queensland’s beef industry,” he said.

In recent years, Belmont has been cemented as a rural education hub with the formation of the Belmont Agriculture Education Alliance between AgForce, CQUniversity and Rockhampton Grammar School.

“Educating future industry stakeholders and ensuring the next generation has the skills to lead our sector into the future is of vital importance to the success of agriculture,” Mr Maudsley said.

“The Alliance helps students do their agricultural education right through from high school to university and then move into a career without ever having to leave the region.”

Secondary school students attending Rockhampton Grammar School can undertake Certificates II and III in Agriculture using infrastructure and facilities at the station.

University students undertaking PhD level research projects benefit from access to livestock, land and husbandry facilities and an open area to monitor animal behavior.

“This seamless suite of education and training pathways into the industry, coupled with the Alliance’s combined resources and expertise, are helping to unlock the full agricultural potential of the Central Queensland region,” Mr Maudsley said.

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