Data Collection Training

training to support pastoralists to calibrate & validate data to better understand & manage feed on offer (FOO) & the nutritional & environmental value of grasses. Data collected is utilised alongside satellite imagery to give pastoralists better tools to drive better outcomes.

As part of Rangelands NRM’s Revitalising Southern Rangelands and the Future Drought Fund project; Cibo labs ran a workshop from Edah Station. Aimed at training key personnel to help support pastoralists to calibrate and validate data to better understand and manage feed on offer (FOO) and the nutritional and environmental value of grasses. Data collected is utilised alongside satellite imagery to give pastoralists better tools to drive better outcomes.

Intro

At the tail end of 2022, Angus and Toby Nichols of Edah Station facilitated the hosting of a workshop featuring Phil Tickle, Managing Director of Cibo Labs. This was done as part of the Rangelands NRM “Revitalising the Southern Rangelands” project which has been set up with the goal of educating and supporting the pastoral industry through advanced and refined grazing management techniques. A project made possible thanks to National Landcare Program Smart Farms funding.

Part 1 – in the Classroom

Phil Tickle, Managing Director of Cibo Labs, normally based in Queensland; came across to Central WA to present on satellite-assisted forage budgeting and other tools. The workshop was aimed at training the Southern Rangelands trainers/experts, so that Rangelands NRM can engage experts to help support and educate pastoralists with calibrating and validating the satellite data for their properties.

This is in order to;

  • improve understanding of feed on offer (FOO),
  • understand nutritional and environmental value of plants,
  • plant identification, and
  • looking at key environmental and nutritional species,

All to gain a better insight of how the landscape is functioning.

The next phase of work which; will occur through 2023 has been made possible by the Future Drought Fund; will allow for further reaching support and learnings for pastoralists, supporting drought management.

At the workshop, a ½ day was spent in a classroom type setting with Phil explaining Cibo Labs systems and what it can offer the agricultural sector; in particular pastoralists. This system allows users to link a few things together to gain really useful data and information; particularly with reference to forage, carbon, fire and landscape changes. Allowing for more effective and proactive land management.

Discussion around the Australian Feedbase Monitor and how it can be utilised by agriculturalists; providing a great opportunity for the agricultural sector to see how the amazing information that is out there can compliment their on ground farm/station monitoring and improve understanding of forage/landscape function.

Part 2 – In the Field

The second half of the day was spent out in the field, learning how to use the Cibo Labs Biomass Collector App, and get a better understanding of the information that we need to gather. Jim Addison (Field Expert, Southern Rangelands) showed us the square method and how he calculates forage required by a DSE for 1 day. This is based on 7DSE for 1 cattle unit/day (but some go out to 10DSE for ease of calculations). It became clear that if you use cattle units for this calculation then your area becomes incomprehensibly large.

Jim was also invaluable in identifying plants and grasses; including their palatability. An interesting point to note in our on field education was that there is not much biomass in wildflowers and their season is very short; but, cattle will still eat them.

Phil walked the team through the process for collecting field calibration data using the App alongside development of visual calibrations and a simple photo reference using the App.

Steps for on ground data collection using Cibo labs systems was shown to be extraordinarily simple and effective. Saving time for stretched, time poor agriculturalists.

Steps are;

  1. Take a photo of the transect where you are walking.
  2. You put your quadrat down (in our case we used a 0.25m quadrat), take a photo, estimate biomass, estimate height, then walk 10m
  3. Repeat step 2, 4 more times along a 50m transect
  4. For the whole site estimate dominant species, co-dominate species, unpalatable species %, unpalatable 3P species %, average dry matter % for transect and average green fraction %
  5. Saving the data offline and uploading to the cloud when you have internet access

If you were to do the pasture cuts, you would cut every quadrat, put them in a bag together, weigh the wet weight and then take a sub-sample for drying to estimate the percent dry matter using an oven.

We still need to do a bit of work on the saltland pastures and how we collect that data, but we have definitely made a great start.

Whilst it’s a little extra work to start with, it will be much easier with the support of experts. Phil explained that the machine learning systems used by Cibo Labs work a bit like “Google Traffic” and very quickly improve for both the properties that collect data and the entire district, and ultimately save enormous time providing regular and objective pasture assessments.

Through this project we hope that pastoralists will get a better understanding of landscape function and the amount of FOO they have, not just next to the tracks they drive or watering points they check, but further afield where they do not get to see. However, this data does not stop the need for eyes on the ground – it is another resource for making more informed management decisions.

Through the Smart Farms project, 9 stations across the Southern Rangelands and 1 in the Pilbara have been given the opportunity to get the Cibo Labs PastureKey service for a year. We are now commencing the Future Drought Fund project to extend on this work involving rangelands experts.

A big thank you to Angus and Toby Nichols, Darren and Kim Cousens, Cibo Labs and all the rangelands experts for making this event possible and valuable.

 

Home – Northern WA and Northern Territory Drought Resilience and Innovation Hub (northernhub.au)

Supporting Grower Groups in WA – Grower Group Alliance (gga.org.au)

Home – DAFF (agriculture.gov.au)

Natural Resource Management Drought Resilience Program – Grants – DAFF (agriculture.gov.au)

Cibolabs – Australian Feedbase Monitor – Agricultural Data Analytics Company

Home – Landcare Australia Landcare Australia