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Newsletter | September 2019

Are we optimising Space technology?

DPIRD’s Perry Dolling is a key team member on the DPIRD/CSIRO partnership that will take the Pastures from Space (PfS) technology to its newest platform, aimed to be in place by next year’s growing season.

The PfS service generates maps to estimate pasture feed on offer (FOO) on a weekly basis however the updated product will provide access to historical data, growth rates expressed at a shire level and detailed maps down to farm scale.  If you’ve not ever bothered to look - here’s the link that takes you directly to the growth rate map:
Go to the measurement icons at the top right of your screen and type in your farms GPS coordinates. And, while you’re there, why not also type in your neighbours also to see how your farms compare -  it may provide some interesting speculation!

But as with many services that provide data, the limiting factor of PfS is people’s preparedness to fully turn the data into farm management decisions. One of Perry’s star users is PfS stalwart and Arthur River farmer Brad Wooldridge.

“Brad is one who could never be accused of not taking advantage of data on offer (DOO),” says Perry!

“While no one needs a computer model to tell us the consequence of a late break, but if you want to accurately budget the feed requirements, then PfS will provide you a level of detail that will enable you to do that with high accuracy. If you are chasing one-percenters in your business, this will provide you that."

Perry says another example of usage is that Pastures from Space data will enable precise calculations of when to  stop supplementary feeding.

Perry highlights that PfS is not a stand-alone tool but becoming a regular user of the service will drive a precision habit around pasture budgeting.

“We now have 15 years of weekly data over the growing season at a scale down to 6.25ha.

“That can tell you a lot about the productivity potential of a property and it will definitely provide a precise guide around stocking rates for each paddock.”

According to Perry the website hits suggest there has only ever been a modest uptake of the technology. 

“We are keen to understand if farmers want this service and what map functionality and supporting tools will enable them to make better use of the data.”

Advice from Perry’s star user Brad Woolridge is that it takes time to get your head around the technology and the way to apply the information to farm management decisions.

“There is a lot of product development that is needed before Pastures from Space is optimised as a tool and that can’t come quick enough for me, but if you’ve not used it before, at least get onto the site and form a basic understanding of the information that is there.  And, as soon as we get the new format released there is much more to be gained,” says Brad.

WALRC encourages our readers to provide commentary on the PfS service. Please tell us what you think by emailing

Advocating for red meat

We’re sure everyone was pleased to read or see the ABC news story raising warnings that vegan and vegetarian meat substitutes could pose health risks. Check out

And, a common question from the crowd at WALRC functions is ‘what is MLA doing about dispelling the myths that are out there about the harmful effects of red meat - to both health and environment.

While WALRC’s charter is to focus exclusively on research and extension activities that deliver production benefits behind the farm gate, it’s not missed on us that producers want a greater insight into how MLA is working in this space.

We think one of MLA’s best initiatives is the recent launch of the Good Meat website - see  This is a website dedicated to providing the factual answers to most commonly asked questions. It’s also a great resource for producers wanting to arm themselves with the perfect answers for when next hanging out with people who make inaccurate claims about red meat’s carbon footprint, methane emissions, water usage etc.

MLA is offering WALRC another of its producer advocacy workshops if there is sufficient interest from a cohort of producers wanting to better equip themselves to help spread the red meat is good for you, good for the planet message. Please drop us a line if that’s you.

Do triplets pose opportunity on the right farms?

The Murdoch team is collaborating with Massey University, and state governments in NSW, Victoria and SA to better understand the dynamics of triplets in highly fertile ewe flocks.

According to Murdoch’s Sarah Blumer, the trend of increasing reproductive rates is leading to an increase in the proportion of triplet conceptions and with that comes some significant mortality risks if not managed.

“Our survey data tells us that farmers typically don’t scan for triplets as they reckon there aren’t enough triplet concepts to make it worth worrying about.

“But when we did scan for triplets across both maternal and merino ewe flocks, we found in the flocks surveyed, 6.2pc and 2.7pc triplet conceptions respectively.

“Now, that may not sound a lot in percentage terms, but if you think about that in raw numbers, that’s potentially a lot of extra lambs - that you could either manage well to optimise survival, or not.”

Sarah explains that both ewes and lambs in this cohort are metabolically challenged and have poorer survival than ewes and lambs in the single/twin cohort.

“Ewes cannot physically consume more food, are carrying >20kg at birth, may be in poorer condition and do not produce proportionally more milk. Lambs are smaller, colder, display poor bonding behaviours and get less colostrum and milk.”

Sarah says with many gaps in the research, especially under Australian conditions, the true potential to improve survival of both triplets and the triplet-bearing ewe, has not been established.

“For instance, we don’t know if supplements and optimal grazing can make a different to survival, nor do we know if stocking rate and mob size has an impact.”

The next stage in the work is to get a better handle on the survival rate of triplet-bearing ewes and their lambs and if those rates can be aligned to a particular suite of practices.

Murdoch has established 27 trial sites across WA representative of both Merino and material breed types.

This initial study will give the first insights into the prevalence of triplets in WA and the cost/opportunity we are facing. More information Sarah.

Awash with opportunities!

Opportunity 1: MLA’s call for research, development and adoption (RD&A) proposals is now open and closes October 16.  A request for tender based on the 2020-21 RD&A priorities for sheepmeat and grassfed beef and a MLA preliminary proposal template are available to download from the MLA website.
This year MLA is putting increased focus on collaboration between research organisations, but also between researchers and producers. The aim is to move away from piece-meal projects to develop larger programs of work with greater benefits/impacts for industry.
The terms of reference are an excellent reflection of the WALRC priorities submitted to MLA at the end of June.  WALRC encourages organisations contemplating lodging a proposal to contact us for deeper insights into the priorities and opportunities.
Opportunity 2:  Applications for MLA sponsorships of up to $10,000 to support producer events scheduled between January and June 2020, close on October 11.  Application forms can be found at

Opportunity 3:  Service providers supporting the red meat industry are encouraged to attend the MLA advisor updates, scheduled to take place in Perth on October 30. Click here for the program and registration details.

WALRC heads to the Goldfields

WALRC chair Tim Watts and MLA's David Beatty take the WALRC issues roadshow to the Goldfields next month to be part of the Goldfields Nullabor Rangelands Biosecurity Association's  upcoming event on October 15/16.

The GNRBA is the largest biosecurity region in Western Australia, covering an area of 933,814 square kilometres, representing 37% of WA - four times the size of Victoria! (Wonder if our friends at SALRC will notice this line!)

We look forward to joining former WALRC coordinator Erin Gorter (who is managing several projects for the Association) together with her colleagues in meeting local pastoralists at the gathering. The meeting is a collaborative great way to ensure the Rangeland voices are heard and their issues taken back to MLA.
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WA Livestock Research Council · WALRC Secretariat · PO Box 668 · Denmark, WA 6333 · Australia

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