Award funds young UNE scientist’s livestock tracking research

Published 09 March 2011

awardA young scientist from the University of New England has won a national award that will fund his innovative research on the agricultural applications of livestock tracking technology over the next year.

Dr Mark Trotter, a Research-Lecturer in Precision Agriculture at UNE, was presented with the award by the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, during the ABARES Outlook 2011 conference in Canberra last week. The awards provide funding of up to $22,000 for “innovative scientific projects that will contribute to the ongoing success and sustainability of Australia’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries”.

Dr Trotter was one of 11 recipients of  the 2011 “Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry”, coordinated by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and sponsored by a range of industry-based organisations. Dr Trotter’s project is sponsored by Meat & Livestock Australia.

Dr Trotter has been involved in research on livestock tracking technology (using Global Positioning System and other spatial monitoring devices) within UNE’s Precision Agriculture Research Group for the past four years. While technology companies are now developing such devices to track the movements of livestock, Dr Trotter is addressing the need for graziers to be able to convert those “dots on a map” into potentially valuable information on their animals’ behaviour.

“I’ll be focusing on grazing behaviour,” he said. “Once farmers have a map of where their livestock are grazing, they can consider strategies for land management – such as variable rate fertiliser application.

“Agricultural industries worldwide are faced with the problems of having to increase production using the same area of land, and having to reduce their input costs and ‘environmental footprint’. This technology gives us the opportunity to address those problems through more efficient land management.”

“There are also known links between feed intake and the early onset of disease in animals,” he continued, “so monitoring grazing behaviour can provide an early warning of disease.”

“I love technology – and the livestock sector,” said Dr Trotter, who grew up on a dairy/beef property. He said his involvement in the Outlook 2011 conference had been a “great experience” – particularly meeting the ABARES Chief Scientist, Professor Kim Ritman, and the other award winners. One of those others, Dr Peter McGilchrist, is a UNE graduate whose award, sponsored by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation, is for a project addressing the problem of “dark cutting syndrome” in red meat, which costs the Australian beef industry more than $35 million a year.

THE IMAGE displayed at the top of this page expands to show the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig (right), presenting Dr Mark Trotter with the Science and Innovation Award.