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TheDairySite Newsletter - 02 May 2014

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Friday 2nd May 2014.
Michael Priestley - Editor

Michael Priestley

MSD Animal Health

Novus International

Pastures From Space and Cow Microphones

Intensive dairying may lend itself to precision technologies but grass-based systems can also benefit from gadgets.

This allows grazing management to become an act of science rather than an ‘act of faith’, attendees at the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) Annual Meeting heard on Wednesday.

High above Western Australia, three satellites are measuring pasture availability on a livestock farm near Perth.

Instruments on board the satellites measure the reflectance of visible and invisible light from the earth’s surface, producing images and colours, to which numbers can be assigned.

These numbers are then used to calculate kilograms of pasture per hectare which can be used to assist feed budgeting, grazing, fertiliser application and rotation decisions, according to the CSIRO, the organisation partnering the Australian government in the project.

As well as producing a biomass figure for ‘feed on offer’ (FOO), daily grass growth rates can be reached by using climate information to estimate kilograms of herbage per hectare.

For Dr Mark Rutter of Harper Adams University, this has great potential in increasing agricultural productivity as it optimises the use of farmland making up two thirds of the world’s agricultural space – rangeland and pasture.

However, satellite pasture management falls down where there is greater cloud cover, explained Dr Rutter, although other alternatives are at hand, he told the BSAS audience.

Rising plate meters and vehicle-based pasture meters do the same job as the Australian satellites but on a field level.

Drawn by a quad bike or tractor, pasture meters can give estimations of pasture availability across greater areas and in less time than a rising plate can, although neither can rival the coverage of satellites.

And while greater accuracy can be expected by measurements taken from instruments within fields, the Australians are able to measure feed in areas as small as 20 square metres.

But Dr Rutter suggested that attaching microphones to cows’ skulls to detect chewing and biting could offer the greatest benefits, particularly if combined with a accelerometer to monitor head movements.

Describing the merits of bioacoustics, Dr Rutter said: “By giving a ‘bite to chew ratio’ and clocking grazing time, an estimate of herbage intake and quantity can be given.”

"It is through combining chew sounds and measuring head movement that farming could have the greatest opportunity for on-farm grazing monitoring." 

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Confined Livestock Operations Account for Majority of Chesapeake Bay Area’s Farmland With Applied Manure
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What Floors and Surfaces Help Cow Longevity?
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Timed Artificial Insemination in Dairy Heifers
One delayed heifer pregnancy can cost you over two dollars a day in raising cost, which is why timed insemination should be considered to achieve pregnancy at the desired age, say Professor Jose Santos and Dr Fabio Lima, University of Florida.

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US, Japan Leaders Vow to Enhance Bilateral Ties
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India Pegs $9.20 billion Investment on Agri-Infra Schemes
Kwality Dairy Plans $50 million Investment on Dairy Expansion
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India's Milk Production To Hit 177 MT By 2019-20
Gujarat Milk Federation Output Up 32 Per Cent During Last Year

   United Kingdom

Focusing on Feed at Cereals 2014
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Farmers Union President Discusses COOL, Competition and RFS at House Livestock Hearing
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Norway and Tanzania Unite in Cattle Project


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Royal Opening for Arla Chinese Technology Centre
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