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Evaluating satellite-based pasture measurement for Australian dairy farmers

Eastwood, C.R., Mata, G., Handcock, R.N. and Kenny, S. (2009) Evaluating satellite-based pasture measurement for Australian dairy farmers. In: Joint International Agricultural Conference, 6 - 8 July 2009, Wageningen, Netherlands



Australian dairy farms rely on grazing pastures as their primary and cheapest source of feed. Accurate and timely measurement of pasture biomass is integral for effective grazing management practice, however few Australian dairy farmers record pasture mass or growth rate objectively. A system using satellite images has been developed to measure pasture biomass at a paddock-scale in Australia. The concept was evaluated through an 18 farm pilot study over the spring growth period, July to November 2008. The study was evaluated in terms of technology fit with grazing management practice of participant farmers. Qualitative research methods, including semi-structured interviews and a group workshop, were used to ascertain participant views on issues such as timeliness, accuracy, and value proposition within the context of farming systems. In this paper we discuss preliminary findings from the study, focussing on the farmer attitudes to the use of satellite-based measurement and delivery of pasture biomass information. The findings suggest that a technology such as satellite pasture measurement has potential application in Australian dairy farm systems. However the provision of data alone does not guarantee successful technology uptake. Support structures must also be provided to help farmers interpret the information within the specific context of their farm system. These support structures may include use of private agronomists, producer groups, agriculture extension personnel, or associated software applications.

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