Belinda fell in love with life on the land from a young age, regularly visiting her grandparents farm in the small town of Beverley where she grew up. She has since married a farmer and become one in her own right, overseeing mixed farming enterprise of sheep and cropping.
As the years have passed, Belinda has worked to not only redefine her role in the business, but the way farm management is conducted on a much larger scale. Inspired by tragedies on her own land, Belinda began a project to introduce what she effectively describes as ‘Fitbit for sheep’. She commented to her husband one day how great it would be if sheep could just walk up to them and bleat their troubles – then she found her solution.
Belinda is importing an innovative sheep collar that tracks core information such as the animal’s activity, temperature and GPS location. She will be trialling the system on nucleus ewes at her farm to determine the usefulness of application first and foremost on animal welfare issues – especially when it comes to lambing time. When an animal begins showing unusual statistics, the farmer is notified via mobile phone and can determine the distressed animal’s exact GPS location. The farmer can then quickly and easily track it down and attend to its needs without disturbing the rest of the flock.
GPS information provided by the collar is also invaluable when it comes to tracking sheep movements. The farmer can see where the flock prefers to graze and can then work to replicate those conditions elsewhere to maximise growth and therefore productivity and profit. Broken fences or open gates will also no longer cause so much trouble – an errant sheep or escaped flock can be rounded up before crops are destroyed or animals go missing.
Belinda hopes this new technology will eventually expand to use in live export, where sheep can be monitored by the on-board vet and attended to as soon as a problem arises. These collars also have the ability to offer important information on animal welfare concerns and ensure due-diligence is met within the export industry.
While Belinda’s project is still in its early stages, there are mass benefits to this type of system for the broad farming community. Automation has become commonplace across areas of farming such as cropping and cattle, yet sheep farming largely requires a much more ‘hands-on’ approach. Once implemented, these collars have huge potential to change the way sheep farming is conducted to create a more effective, safe and profitable business.