[Editor’s Note: Adrien Lang, Central Queensland farmer, shared that drones could also be used to check on tanks or the welfare of animals.]
This post originally appeared on http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-18/drone-mustering-rockhampton-cattle-experiment/8085320.
Central Queensland farmers are experimenting with drones to muster their stock, in the hope they will one day reduce costs — as well as their workload.
While the drone trials have been successful, for the moment the traditional methods of horseback, motorbikes and small helicopters are cheaper and more reliable.
Adrien Lang used a drone for the first time on the latest muster on his property outside Rockhampton, held in his family for more than 100 years.
It had come in handy after one of the highest winter rainfalls on record.
“It posed an unusual issue where we needed to move some cattle out of some wet country,” he said.
“Instead of getting horses, they called me up and said ‘do you mind getting your drone and seeing if you can push them out?’
“We did have a couple of gentlemen down on horseback, and they were quite happy not to get their feet wet.”
There were challenges, but he hailed the experiment a success, adding the technology could also be used to check on tanks, or on the welfare of animals.
Cost and battery life barriers for now
Cameron Parker is a contact musterer who also lives on a property near Rockhampton, and normally works cattle from a helicopter.
Mustering the animals takes patience and skill, learnt over many years.
Cattle are kept on track by trying to avoid the noise from the chopper.
Mr Parker uses the same technique to train the animals with drones.
“Within about 10 or 15 minutes they started … to learn,” he said.
The experienced stockman believed the technology has a future in the industry, but said their cost and battery life are holding them back.
“I think as the technology gets better I think there’s definitely going to be a place for them, and I think you’re going to see more and more of them,” he said.
“Definitely I think our children will be [using them], and I think even we’ll be doing it in 10 years.”
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The head of the industry body representing farmers believed they were not given enough credit for embracing new technology.
AgForce chief executive Charles Burke said while farmers were always looking for ways to improve their businesses, some traditions may still remain.
“I think it’s safe to say that we will always have that love affair and that quintessential expectation of stockman riding horses,” he said.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get away from that.
“But it’s a natural progression now with a new technology like drones.”