South Australia will host the first-ever World Merino Insight on September 4-9, 2016, in and around Adelaide.
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Media release                                                                                                                                     June 16, 2016

Digital agriculture creates opportunities for Aust sheep 

CROWD-SOURCING information on apps similar to TripAdvisor or Uber could soon be a possibility for the Australian livestock sector, according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s Sam Gill.

Mr Gill, Manager of Beef Genetics, Data Insights and Livestock Productivity, will speak on the Next generation of technology in the Merino industry at the World Merino Insight conference in Adelaide from September 4-9.

He said it was important to take a common sense approach to technology increases and opportunities that arose as a result of digital agriculture.

“Some of the principles and opportunities that TripAdvisor, as well as taxi or coffee apps share through crowd sourcing, could be a future possibility for the livestock industry,” he said.

Mr Gill said it was important to explore what was happening in other industries to create opportunities for information sharing and doing business.

“Competing in an international marketplace means that producers need to be more confident in the decisions they make to get that,” he said.

 “Producing livestock has always been a complex process, with producers having to get the right product to the right market at the right time in a highly variable environment – but this has existed for hundreds of years. The challenge is that farming is also becoming increasingly complicated as more data and information is produced from many different sources.

 “Producers tend to get information that only provides a piece of the puzzle, which they then have to put together to use to make decisions on-farm.

“Rather than farmers having to play detective, and put these pieces together themselves, these new predictive tools and new technologies can be used  to provide more effective information to the farmer to help decision making.”

Predictive tools that help with decisions already exist now, such as Australian Sheep Breeding Values or Estimated Breeding Values in cattle to improve the genetic quality of livestock, or the MSA Index for improving eating quality.

Technology increases that would help increase future livestock production included better satellite imagery, mob tracking tools, livestock sensors to monitor animal health or ovulation, and monitoring of watering points.

“The more information that is available, the better the ability to use it to make more informative decisions – it becomes a step up from only having your own data on farm to compare against, which can tell you what has happened and some insight as to why it has happened – but if you were able to easily compare results against a wider range of information, you can make decisions that are more predictive on how you can make things happen in the future,” Mr Gill said.

“The sheep and beef industry is still a step away from having a great suite of these predictive tools to help decision making.

“But it is already happening in cropping, and it is happening more in dairy and large pastoral companies.”

Mr Gill said in the future there will be a closer relationship between what producers breed for and what they get paid for in the supply chain.

“Closer alignment between consumers, producers and products will be seen, with feedback tools such as Meat Standards Australia and Livestock Data Link becoming major drivers of genetic improvement,” he said.

“Payment will be based on more accurate measures of yield and eating quality from the processing sector and those measurements will flow back to producers, enabling them to make better ram selection decisions based on their flock’s feedback performance.”

Mr Gill said MLA was helping identify how these tools and solutions are being utilised by producers.

“MLA is working with industry in this space at the moment through large collaborative industry programs such as the National Livestock Genetics Consortium and the recently announced Rural R&D for Profit project on carcase measurement and feedback systems," he said.

Early-bird registrations for the World Merino Insight close on June 30.

To register: 
Visit or contact Emma at 08 8125 2200 or email 

Media contact:
Peter Meyer, World Merino Insight Co-Chair, 08 8846 2077, 0408 089 669 or

Click here for a high resolution photo of Sam Gill