Highly accurate forecasts for producers from ASKBILL

Big-dataValidation trials have proven that sheep producers using ASKBILL are receiving highly accurate forecasts of pasture production and animal growth well in advance of key management decisions.

Developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), www.askbill.com.auprovides timely and accurate predictions for sheep wellbeing and productivity using climate, stock and pasture information.

It complements grazing knowledge with detailed data about livestock and pastures to predict opportunities and threats to individual businesses from weather, pests or disease.

Sheep CRC Enhanced Sheep Wellbeing and Productivity Program Leader, Professor Lewis Kahn, said the latest results from ASKBILL’s validation sites should give farmers increased confidence in its forecasts of pasture biomass and animal live weight.

“During the validation trials our team took comprehensive measurements of pasture, soil, live weight (ewes and weaned lambs), carcase traits (lambs), wool and parasite risk every four to six weeks on 11 commercial properties located across the major sheep producing regions of Australia,” Prof. Kahn said.

“We used ASKBILL to predict the results five to six weeks in advance of the measurements being taken and the data revealed ASKBILL’s predictions were highly accurate and should give producers confidence in using the tool to support their management decisions.”

Pasture, forage crops and livestock were measured on a 5-6 weekly basis for at least 12 months on each property. Each site had 100 ewes and 100 weaned lambs that were tagged and measured, with the enterprises monitored including both Merino and prime lamb operations.

The prime lambs were followed to the processor to measure carcase traits that underpin lean meat yields and eating quality, while pasture biomass, green content and nutritional quality (i.e. digestibility, crude protein) were comprehensively measured on each occasion.

“Across all sown and native pasture and forage crop sites, the measured average pasture biomass of 3300 kg of dry matter per hectare was close to the ASKBILL predicted value (5-6 weeks in advance) of 3000 kg DM/ha – an accuracy level above 90% when comparing the measured and predicted values from all of the individual paddocks,” Prof. Kahn said.

“The measured average live weight of all weaners over all properties and visits was 38.9 kg, compared to the mean predicted live weight of 40.2 kg (a difference of just 3%), while measured carcase weight and GR fat depth were predicted with an accuracy of approximately 80%.

“For the ewes, the measured average live weight was 63.0 kg and the ASKBILL average predicted live weight was 64.4 kg.”

Prof. Kahn said the next stage of analysis would test the accuracy of pasture quality predictions of metabolisable energy and crude protein content, as well as wool growth and the risk from worm infection.

“While these results are very encouraging, these ongoing trials will be invaluable in continuing to improve the accuracy of ASKBILL’s forecasting models and predictions. The results also provide the confidence that the ASKBILL forecasts provide value to help sheep producers meet their future targets for production and wellbeing of their flocks,” he said

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