Tracking Santa Gertrudis cattle with mOOvement GPS ear tags

By tracking cattle, mOOvement is going to get us information from the paddock that we never had before - James Henderson

James and John Henderson are beef producers from Monto, Queensland and have run the Colodan property in partnership since 2009. On the property, there is a Santa Gertrudis self-replacing breeder herd. The Hendersons also do backgrounding and finishing on two other properties. There are 600 breeders plus followers on 4,600 hectares of forest country. Most steers turned off to feedlots for either the domestic or export markets after backgrounding on the other properties. The cattle on the property are pure Santa Gertrudis with Angus bulls used for terminal sires.

After success with the move from set stocking to rotational grazing systems in the backgrounding and finishing properties the decision was made to implement the same practices on Colodan with the breeders. Although the property is well fenced and watered, a large number of additional fences need to be built going forward to accommodate the new grazing systems. The use of mOOvement tags will take the guesswork out of the right position of these fences by easily identifying the more heavily grazed areas.

Grazing patterns

mOOvement is a smart ear tag that collects GPS data on cows. By combining collected data on herd level, mOOvement can visualise grazing patterns, helping producers make better infrastructural decisions. Also, mOOvement alerts when cattle jump fences, get stuck, or when they haven't moved for a while.

To maximise the yield of paddocks you have to use your land smart, continues Henderson. "We want to make good infrastructural decisions and split up our land, but data on grazing in our paddocks would usually be obtained from satellite images, which are not cheap and outdate quickly. We work a lot with soil type, but still, some cattle will just not graze in certain parts of the paddock”.

The number of kilograms produced per acres can increase through optimal utilisation of the paddock. Often there are paddocks either over- or underutilised, without even knowing it. According to a study conducted by the MLA, paddock utilisation is one of the key profit drivers for a beef enterprise. When done correctly, high costs on supplements can be saved and the stocking rate can be improved by up to 5-15%.

Reducing labour costs

As for most producers, getting the stocking rate right isn’t the only challenge they face. Checking fences, checking water and mustering cattle are all time-consuming activities and can cost a lot of money. Given the extensive sizes of properties and herds, it is very hard to get a clean muster. Like most producers, the Hendersons use a range of techniques for mustering from horseback, motorbike and helicopters. These solutions come with high costs and consequences. Typically renting a helicopter including pilot costs over $350 per hour. You can get your head around it: if you do the whole property in six hours, you can easily spend thousands of dollars on mustering on a yearly basis.

By using mOOvement, Henderson runs his beef enterprise more efficiently. By knowing the exact location of his cattle, he can save dramatically on mustering costs. Also, mOOvement informs him instantly when cattle have jumped the fence. Henderson can now act accordingly to prevent a loss or a messed up breeding plan. On the map, he can also see where his cattle has jumped the fence, so he knows exactly where a fence repair is needed. A water run and check of the cattle and fencing takes about two hours every week. By knowing the location where a cow has jumped the fence, Henderson now saves many hours on fence checking and fuel costs every single week.  

“Before mOOvement, we had no information or data on how our cattle grazed the property, we just had to give it our best guess”. Henderson continues: “There is a lot of ambiguity on where our cattle grazed, and we were never sure about this. From now on, producers never have to guess about their livestock’s whereabouts anymore.”