Big plans for Harvey Ag

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Heat-detecting technology for oestrus and disease detection in dairy cows, automatic milking and commercially viable fish production are just some of WA College of Agriculture Harvey principal Neale Armstrong’s plans.

Mr Armstrong, who said the school has scope to close the gap between city and country, also believes it will one day host students of primary school age.

“I believe one day we could have primary age kids coming here to learn about agriculture.”

The school is about to embark on a dairy project using heat-detecting bolus implant research from the United States.

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By implanting boluses into the rumen of dairy cows, students will be able to monitor movements in core temperature to detect heat for sickness and oestrus cycles.

Mr Armstrong said it was a first in WA and would be a useful tool for the dairy industry.

“If an animal is ill, then it can be detected early, preventing the spread of sickness, ” he said.

“The trial will go for about 12 months and if it works, it could become a strategy that commercial dairy farmers employ.”

Mr Armstrong said it would be interesting to see how the dairy industry coped with the diminishing number of dairy research stations in WA.

“One of the only ones left is the Vasse research station, and I’m hoping the college will have some involvement in the future and take up what was its former role as the Wokalup research station, ” he said.

“As the dairy industry contracts to the west coast, that’s where the research is going to be centred and, as dollars get tighter, researchers are going to want to have less outlay and we could have a part in that.”

Other trials underway at the college include those relating to livestock feed, pasture improvement and fertiliser.

In addition, the WA Vine Improvement Association has moved a number of its Mediterranean vines from Manjimup to Harvey to examine their capabilities in warmer conditions.

“We are still looking after CSIRO table grape plantings that are going to become commercially available once finished, ” Mr Armstrong added.

Mr Armstrong, who was the inaugural principal at the college in 1998, said he had witnessed many developments in the agricultural industry since taking on the role.

“In the dairy industry, we have seen the greatest advances in technology with the implementation of transponders and automated drafting gates, ” he said.

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