A SPECIALISED drone known as the Lambulance could help producers save thousands of dollars on newborn and breeding stock losses.
Using infra-red technology and traditional visual sensors, producers will be able to watch as their drone automatically passes over a lambing paddock and provides an assessment of animal movements and even temperatures.
The Lambulance is the work of three past and present staff of the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Andrew Bailey, Tony Butler and James Tyson, and could be available to producers in just 12 to 18 months.
“It might be ewes that are down that haven’t moved, it may be lambs that are isolated from their mothers, it might be more importantly that infra-red signal will say that lamb has a very low heat temperature and as a consequence it’s likely to be in trouble,” co-founder Andrew Bailey said.
“It’s a decision tool, it’s not going to solve your problems, but it helps you make informed decisions of what your problems are out in the field.
“We are using lambing as the classic example...but you may use it for a whole lot of applications using livestock.”
Producers would either buy a Lambulance drone and pay an annual subscription for regular updates and software training or install the system to their own device.
Based on early approximations, Mr Bailey said users could become a user for about $10,000 with an annual subscription of about $400.
But, it wouldn’t take long for the Lambulance to pay it’s way, he said.
“We have done the costing on it and you only need to get a couple of per cent improvement on lamb survival rates on a modest flock of a couple thousand animals and you’ve already paid for it in the first year,” he said.
The Lambulance was a finalist in the Australian eChallenge and pitched their product to leaning sheep and entrepreneur figures during an event on Wednesday night in the hope of gaining industry support.
Based on the June 2018 MLA and AWI Wool and Sheepmeat Survey Report, lamb losses were still a major issue nationally with Merinos recording an 84 per cent marking rate with a 97pc marking rate for non-Merino breeds.
While unsuccessful in taking the eChallenge title, Mr Bailey said they were in a good position to go to industry with their product following growing feedback from producers.
“Ultimately the big part of this project is helping farmers...demonstrating to the community that they are concerned about the animal welfare outcomes of the animals in their charge and that they are doing things proactively to improve the outcome for both ewes and lambs,” he said.
NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association President and Gilgandra sheep producer, Angus Beveridge, said lambing loss had been a major issue during this dry season and new heat technology could bring benefits, it would be up to the operator to act on it.
He said it would need to be put into practice effectively, perhaps better suited to broadacre operations.
“We have got ewes lambing, not this year, but in years gone by in 200 hectare paddocks and probably people further west of here lamb in bigger paddocks,” he said.
“There is nothing much you can do with that. With a situation with a drone and your season is a good one and you are having lamb losses, it couldn’t do anything but help.”
With wifi enabled tags now being tested on properties to track sheep movement, he said technology did bring benefits to the industry.