Named for Dr Gordon 'Bill' McClymont, founding Dean of the University of New England's faculty of Rural Science, the ASKBILL app has been developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), in collaboration with the Data to Decisions CRC, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and the University of New England.
Sheep CRC CEO, James Rowe told Faming Ahead the premise of ASKBILL is simple – to predict the requirements of livestock in relation to the unfolding environmental conditions in which they’re living.
“ASKBILL uses past, present and future BOM climate data and combines that with a number of biophysical models that incorporate a dynamic inventory of livestock and information about the farm, pasture and soils on which those livestock are being run,” Mr Rowe explains.
“A key feature is the predictive nature of the app, which we believe is absolutely essential to manage livestock, utilise feed effectively and avoid risks.”
The web-based app uses daily downloads of climate data and forecasts to provide estimates for individual farms of the risk of flystrike and parasite infection, likely pasture production, livestock nutritional requirements and feed budgets, and risks associated with extreme weather events.
“The BOM is able to generate climatic data on a five by five-kilometre grid, meaning you can lock into a farm-level set of weather data and forecasts, and as that data is updated every day, so too are the bio-physical models and predictive functions of the app,” Mr Rowe says.
“The app predicts flystrike risk for seven to 14 days, internal parasites such as worms for three to four weeks and for feed budgets it looks out to three months.
“Importantly, the app is a complementary tool, it in no way detracts from the knowledge and experience that manager has - it just helps with quantitative analysis and that might help inform a decision.”
A beta version of ASKBILL is already available for up to 200 producers as the app is tested through to November 2017.
“There’s still room for a few more growers, but it has filled up really quickly, we’re really pleased with the level of interest we’ve had,” Mr Rowe explains.
“People can get a beta version licence for $50, but the catch is we want to get some feedback on aspects that might be difficult, new features that might be useful to enhance the value, it’s going on a bit of a journey together over those first six months that we’re out there live.”
“The full functionality is available and we’ll be adding in new features during the next six months, so it’ll only get better.”
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