Farmers add ‘drone pilot’ to skill set

Posted: 19th Oct

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Can the hovering of a drone replace the attentive eye of a farmer? Agriculture Victoria discuss a new trial which aims to find out the answer.

Using drones on farms is becoming more popular.

But are they all they’re cracked up to be? Can they replace a farmer physically monitoring lambing ewes on a frosty winter’s morning? Or make sure the water troughs are full during the height of summer?

These are precisely the sorts of questions one local Victorian agriculture group is keen to find out as members take part in a ‘Drones for monitoring sheep welfare’ pilot project.

The Boort BestWool/BestLamb group wants to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the hype around drones and determine whether they can save time and money that go with monitoring livestock.

Farmers can spend a significant amount of time checking on the welfare of lambing ewes.

During dry times it’s all about inspecting paddocks to check on water supplies, available pasture and stock health.

The trial is producing some early benefits and the bird’s eye view of paddocks and sheep are giving farmers a new perspective on what is happening on the ground.

This producer demonstration site project is funded by Agriculture Victoria and Meat & Livestock Australia.

“Farmers tell me they’re growing increasingly confident in flying the drone and making decisions based on what they’re seeing on-screen,” Agriculture Victoria Livestock Extension Officer and trial co-ordinator Erica Schelfhorst said.

Exactly how much time the drones will save and whether they can truly replace the human experience, skill and know-how remain to be seen, but expectations are high just one year into the three-year demonstration project.

So while the jury is still out, Victoria’s sheep producers are at least increasing their technical skill and knowledge, while testing the value of using drones in keeping a valuable eye on their animals’ welfare.

The ‘Drones for monitoring sheep welfare’ pilot project will continue until the end of 2021 when the results will be published.

Watch the video to see drone footage from the pilot project.

To learn more about the BestWool/BestLamb networks or the pilot project, visit Agriculture Victoria.

https://youtu.be/D03bYtiWHL4