The Australian Feedbase Monitor (AFM) was launched in November as a satellite-based tool to assist beef producers in making informed decisions about drought management. Developed by Cibo Labs and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), the AFM allows producers to accurately assess pasture biomass at a property and paddock level. It measures pasture growth, biomass, and ground cover using satellite-fed data on a 30-day rolling average.
The AFM is available in two versions. The entry-level service is free for MLA members, while a higher-resolution, paddock-scale version can be accessed via a subscription. This year marks the first time the AFM is being used for drought management, as it was not yet available during the severe drought experienced in Eastern Australia in 2019.
MLA members can access the tool by linking their Livestock Production Assurance accounts to their myMLA dashboard. Non-members can subscribe to Cibo Labs’ paid service to access the AFM. The AFM provides objective measurements of pasture growth and biomass, enabling producers to make informed decisions about their pasture conditions.
A drought management webinar hosted by consultant Alastair Rayner’s Rayner Ag will cover the use of the AFM as one of the topics. The webinar, focusing on drought preparation and incorporating tools like the AFM into decision-making processes, provides valuable insights into preparing for and managing drought. It covers points such as resource inventory, setting priorities for livestock, feeding choices, and more.
Mr. Rayner emphasizes the importance of setting objectives, defining available resources, and establishing critical benchmarks for feeding and livestock management when preparing for or managing drought. The webinar explores different options available to producers, such as selling, feeding, or agisting, but does not push towards any specific option. Instead, it encourages producers to think about their available resources and options and consider necessary changes.
A case study of the NSW Upper Hunter region using AFM data will be presented during the webinar. It highlights the variation in pasture biomass across the region, emphasizing the need for critical benchmarks and appropriate supplements based on pasture conditions. Producers subscribed to the AFM service are already using it as a valuable drought management decision-making tool.
The webinar also looks back at key lessons from previous drought cycles to help producers make better-informed decisions. It emphasizes the importance of setting trigger points based on specific criteria and being proactive in feeding decisions. For example, if feeding has been based on white cottonseed, a producer needs to switch to alternative options if the animal cannot consume enough to meet required energy levels.
Overall, the AFM provides beef producers with valuable tools to assess pasture conditions and make informed decisions during droughts. The webinar serves as a platform to share knowledge and experiences, promoting effective drought management strategies.