Meg Salter, a veterinarian and farmer, says their family’s fundamental goal is to leave the country in a better state than when they bought it. The Tru-Test Walk over Weighing (WOW) system from Datamars Livestock is feeding into that goal, helping Meg and her husband, Warren make a measurable difference to animal health, welfare, and productivity. In turn, this benefits their beef and farming operations.
Just outside of Dalby, in Queensland, Australia, Meg and Warren run a mixed farming and grazing operation breeding 250 head of stud Angus cows. They also manage a commercial backgrounding cattle business.
The WOW autonomous in-paddock weighing system allows the Salter family to capture accurate weigh data on their cattle daily, with little or no human intervention. How can this happen? WOW employs the help of instinctive behaviour from animals. Using a simple set up near a water station, the Salters’ cattle pass over the weigh scales under their own volition as they need water. At the same time, individual animal data is collected and uploaded to the cloud-based Datamars Livestock software solution. Meg and Warren access this data through the app via simple to read graphs and tables to support precise, informed decisions.
Insight from the WOW system is extremely valuable in Queensland where seasonal drought conditions resulting in reduced water supply and feed availability can create serious production challenges.
From Meg’s perspective, the smart farming solution with its accurate and regular collection of weigh data for every animal, helps the couple better manage their cattle and their land. “We can identify when an individual animal has stopped gaining weight and make health and some performance decisions. That also means we are not over-grazing any of our pastures.
Meg also sees the animal welfare impact of the Datamars solution. “I believe WOW is already giving us animal health benefits which are directly linked to animal welfare.”
She points to the mothering capacity. The ability to link calves with their mothers with greater certainty as they follow their mothers into the watering enclosure. “When you can link the calves to the mothers better, it gives you better genetic decisions.”
There are also performance benefits. If Meg hasn’t seen an animal for a while, the data can provide back-up that she is coming in for water.
For Warren, the simple solution puts “a consistent data collection process in place” which provides a valuable “reconciliation system”.
“When we know there’s a hundred cows in that paddock that should all be walking over the unit. If we only have 95 or 99 cattle come through for a day or two, that is a flag for us that maybe there’s a problem. We go in and investigate. From a manager’s perspective I find that very reassuring especially when I’m offsite.”
Portability is a massive feature of the system which helps to promote animal welfare and better production outcomes. Cattle lose body condition when they walk long distances so rather than the Salters’ stud Angus cattle having to travel to the weigh system, they easily move the WOW unit to where stock is located. The moveable system means there is no unnecessary walking, and this saves both animal stress and labour mustering cattle to the yard.
All in all, Walk over Weighing is a great exemplar of a smart farming solution which delivers genuine productivity, improved animal welfare and sustainability. It reduces animal handling costs, and helps to grow healthier, heavier animals. It delivers quality information helping producers to pinpoint profit-driven decision making.
The solution means opportunity for earlier health interventions and reduced unnecessary stress and energy expenditure, all which impact productivity, and the sustainability of the herd.
Warren says they have easily repaid their investment in the system through labour saving and reduction on stress handling and performance setbacks with their livestock. “Initially, I would have said return on investment was in the first 12 months, but I believe it is less than six.”
The Tru-Test WOW system is a flagship solution within the Datamars Livestock offering. “Our goal as a company is to deliver technology solutions that support sustainable livestock production. Livestock producers know that healthy animals are productive animals, so a key part of our strategy is to develop and bring together products and services that help producers monitor and enhance animal health. Information is a key part of this. With information on animal activity, weight gain and performance, producers can make better informed decisions around animal management and the use of scarce resources, like water,“ says Datamars Head of Smart Farming, Kevin Coffey.
“The WOW solution was borne through decades of carefully studying animal behavior. It is designed to fit in as much as possible with the natural behavior of the animals, with the knowledge that happy, healthy animals are more productive. It supports the sustainability of the herd, and in turn the sustainability of the business,“ says Kevin.
And as Warren says, “It makes good sense.”