Pasture forecaster a first for grazing know-how

A groundbreaker: pasture growth wisdom at your fingertips

Sheep
 Dave Mitchell and daughter Claudia, Monaro Farming Systems members, using the new farming forecaster website at Currawong, west of Delegate.

Dave Mitchell and daughter Claudia, Monaro Farming Systems members, using the new farming forecaster website at Currawong, west of Delegate.

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Farmers' groups help pioneer herbage online tool

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After two years of trials, a new farming forecaster online tool has gone live with the expert system billed as a "first for grazing".

The new website is at farmingforecaster.com.au and brings together the expertise of farm groups, CSIRO researchers, Local Land Services and the Bookham Agriculture Bureau.

The modelling achieves a major breakthrough in giving at least a two-day update on major predictors of pasture growth, allowing farmers to have more confidence in stocking rates with projected green herbage growth.

It's an exciting time for the Monaro Farming Systems (MFS) and Tablelands Farming Systems (TFS) groups that pioneered the farming tool, conducting tests at many Southern Tablelands farms, that will hopefully be replicated in other parts of NSW.

The new online tool puts weather, soil moisture, pasture production and livestock performance information at farmers' fingertips. The finishing touch to the project was completed by web developers, Square V, a small business based in Bendigo, who were able to put together an accessible and impressive online platform that farmers can easily navigate.

CSIRO Senior Research Assistant Pat Mitchell said: "by combining real time weather data, soils information and farm simulation modelling we can provide a road map of pasture growth and feeding requirements over the next few months."

The innovation behind the project lay in the "combination of environmental monitoring, scientifically based predictions, novel software approaches and user-driven interface design".

"Our system updates pasture and livestock conditions daily, so for the first-time producers can see how changes in weather patterns have flow on effects into soil moisture and pasture productivity.

"We can't hope to predict the future entirely, but this system can help producers narrow the range of potential outcomes, allowing them to reduce risks around feed budgeting and stock management."

Phil Graham of Graham Advisory Services said: "Farming Forecaster will provide quality pasture and livestock data on a continuous basis which will improve producer's confidence in assessing seasonal trends".

Producer, Andrew Rolfe said, "the new website will provide a quick snapshot of available water for plant growth and the estimate of plant growth per ha so I can do my pasture budgets going forward. This information will be very helpful in planning pasture management and supplementary feeding."

The website is up and running and a series of webinars and training videos will be available to farmers soon to learn how to use the tools. MFS and TFS members can get extra inputs through specialised reports.

The Farming Forecaster project was supported by the Commonwealth's National Landcare Program through their Smart Farming Partnerships project. Farming Forecaster has been developed by TFS, MFS, Bookham Agriculture Bureau and South East LLS in conjunction with CSIRO research scientists.

MFS chair John Murdoch, Winton, Ando, said the website tool proved the success of farmer groups and showed what they could do. Unfortunately, Commonwealth money had dried up to support running of their organisation - about $70,000 a year was lost.

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