Katanning station goes high-tech

No bylineThe West Australian

The Katanning Research Facility is incorporating labour-saving devices, electronic data recording and flock management technologies as part of work to grow the value of the WA sheep industry.

The Department of Agriculture and Food facility will use the state-of-the-art upgrades as a model to test and explore how these devices can benefit commercial sheep enterprises.

The work is part of the department's $10-million Sheep Industry Business Innovation project.

Department research officer John Paul Collins said the aim was to showcase devices and systems on the research facility that would save time and optimise the use of labour, which was increasingly limited for many commercial farms.

"One of the current labour-hungry activities at KRF as we progress further into summer is the inspection and maintenance of water tanks, pipe infrastructure and water troughs to ensure adequate quality and quantity of drinking water is available to sheep," he said.

"KRF has a well-designed livestock water delivery system where water is pumped from a large dam into two concrete tanks on top of a hill, then reticulated to troughs around the facility.

"To further improve on this system and improve labour efficiency, the KRF staff recently installed a wireless tank sensor, which transmits information on the volume of water in the tank to a desktop display unit in the office.

"From the office, staff will be able to check the level of water in the tank and then remotely turn on the pump via a wireless pump controller to fill the tank. This will save time, and labour can be redirected to other tasks that need doing."

Mr Collins said this was the first step to improve labour efficiency.

"We would like to build on this initial set-up with a more advanced system that incorporates a video camera and flow rate sensor that provides information to a telemetry unit, which can then be accessed remotely from a smartphone or tablet to allow peace of mind and early detection of any faults," he said.

He added maintaining high standards of animal welfare was important and the use of technology would help address this, as well as optimising overall productivity.

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