Saturday, December 2, 2023

Livestock efficiency taps into digital

Neal Wallace
Data-based systems set to increase, SFF tells farmers.
Silver Fern Farms chief supply officer Dan Boulton said use of digital tools on farm will increase.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

A few years ago, meat company livestock reps required a small mountain of books and paperwork when they visited their clients.

Today much of that work is done electronically and the message from Silver Fern Farms is that the use of data-based information and management systems is only going to accelerate.

The company’s Plate to Pasture Farmer Conference last month heard that activities such as booking killing space, managing store stock and filling in animal status declaration forms could soon be digitised and managed by farmers via a phone app.

Chief supply officer Dan Boulton said there is value in data and the aim is to monetise that through leveraging.

An app that will allow effective two-way interaction between the company and suppliers will be trialled within the next 12 to 18 months.

It will, for example, allow farmers to self-manage the sale and flow of prime stock. Once space is booked via the app, it will also monitor and announce pick-up times and updates.

Boulton gave an example of financial benefits from the data-rich centralised M2X livestock transport system it already operates.

The process co-ordinates stock trucks with animal numbers and availability in each district so space and truck movements are managed to maximise efficiency.

Boulton said it has resulted in 16% fewer kilometres being travelled for the same number of stock, while livestock are spending 16% less time on trucks.

In the year to date, Boulton said, vehicle utilisation has improved 7%, saving trucks from travelling 580,000km while empty.

Digitisation will also make it easier to administer and audit the NZ Farm Assurance Plans and SFF’s Net Carbon Zero and Nature Positive programmes.

Boulton said digitisation will allow farmers to undertake a digital pre-audit of plans and programmes ahead of an on-farm inspection, so any shortfalls or oversights can be corrected.

Similarly, it allows the easy sharing of data and information with regulators to support programmes such as Net Carbon Zero.

Digitisation is key to support programmes that SFF is involved in, such as the Nature Positive project, which is looking at soil, water and vegetation health, along with other farm performance support programmes it also supports, such as FARMAX and FarmIQ.

In an example of digital agri tech, Matt Lythe, the managing director of Lynker Analytics, described how his company measures on-farm sequestration. 

He said determining a farm’s carbon status involves assessing the amount and age of woody and permanent vegetation using satellite and artificial intelligence technology.

A subsequent on farm inspection validates that data, from which the farm’s carbon status is determined and a farm-sequestration map is prepared.

The map identifies species, whether natives such as mānuka and native podocarp, hardwoods or softwoods, their approximate age, area and density.

Boulton says the relationship between food producers and consumers is increasingly becoming personal and digitisation will allow them learn where their food comes from and how it is produced.

SFF is preparing to launch a virtual farm experience next year using actual farm footage, allowing customers to see how a NZ farm operates and allowing them to engage with farmers.

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