Australian red meat producers now have access to weekly information on their farm-level pasture status with the release of a new tool called the Australian Feedbase Monitor (AFM).
Launched today at the MLA Updates held in Toowoomba, the AFM is a joint initiative between Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and Cibo Labs. This world-first tool provides producers with satellite-derived objective estimates of leading pasture growth, biomass and ground cover for their property, and is free for MLA members who have linked their Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) accounts to their myMLA dashboard.
Managing Director of MLA, Jason Strong, said the Australian Feedbase Monitor helps take the guesswork out of grazing management, putting more precise information at producers’ fingertips.
“The AFM will be a catalyst for a major shift in the objective management of Australia’s pasture and fodder feedbase,” Mr Strong said.
A survey undertaken by Cibo Labs showed that over 85% of producers surveyed made regular pasture assessments, with 40% undertaking a weekly assessment. However, three quarters of these assessments were carried out using subjective visual assessments.
Although producers conducted regular visual inspections, 28% of producers identified they often had to make unplanned reductions in stock numbers in response to pasture conditions. These forced reductions resulted in over 40% of producers identifying lower sale returns.
The financial impact of inaccurate visual pasture assessments not only impacts sale returns, but often leads to increased supplementary feeding costs. Around 46% of survey respondents identified a need to provide additional supplementary feeds at least twice in the past five years.
Angus beef producer, Paul Franks from Flat Tops, in the Upper Hunter, NSW said he’s looking forward to making the AFM a regular resource in his toolbox.
“The more you use it, the more valuable it becomes. You can go back and look at the pasture trends on your property over time and use that data to plan your management strategy going forward,” Mr Franks said.
The tool’s satellite maps are updated every five days, showing the variability in pasture biomass for a producer’s entire farm at 1ha resolution. Mr Strong said the frequency of the updates will help producers to understand where the feedbase may be declining or responding to weather events over time.
“Producers will also be able to generate graphs showing monthly changes in the feedbase since 2017, compare individual months to the same period in previous years and compare their farms to regional trends.
“The AFM will equip producers to make earlier and more informed grazing decisions to avoid forced stock reductions or unplanned supplementary feeding programs.”
From today, MLA members will be able to access the AFM for free though the myMLA portal by linking their LPA account to their myMLA dashboard. Within a few minutes, they will be able to click ‘Access the tool’ from the myMLA dashboard and receive secure, private and ongoing access to weekly updates on their feedbase for any registered PIC.
If producers want high resolution and more frequent information, or if they are not an MLA member with a linked LPA account, there is also a paid subscription service available via Cibo Labs.