Kevin Butler addresses attendees at a Kilmore field day to display livestock satellite tracking technology last week. ​

By Colin MacGillivray

Kilmore East farmer Kevin Butler believes a successful local demonstration of livestock satellite tracking technology heralds one of the ‘biggest revolutions in agriculture’ Australia has seen.

Mr Butler organised a field day at Assumption College, Kilmore to demonstrate Ceres Tag technology, which gives farmers live updates on the location and condition of their livestock, helping to prevent stock theft.

Nearly 400 lambs at an estimated value of $50,000 were stolen from Mr Butler’s property in January, leading him to investigate theft prevention measures.

He said many of the estimated 60 people who attended the field day on Monday last week agreed to join a community cluster designed to lessen the cost of the technology for individuals.

“I’ve never seen anything like the take-up in my 25 years of doing education conferences. Within one day I think I had about 40,000 sheep protected,” Mr Butler said.

“One of the top wool-growing properties in Victoria is in. A couple down at Mortlake are in. A cattle farmer at Kyabram is in.

“These are linked to Australia Wool Innovation, Meat and Livestock Australia – very well-connected people in their field.”

“Another person who runs farms in the Kilmore, Romsey, Reedy Creek district is going alone, he’s not going in with the community cluster.”

Mr Butler said the applications of the smart tags went beyond detecting and preventing stock theft – an industry he estimated cost Australian farmers between $70 million and $100 million a year.

“The big one is zero [greenhouse] emissions. We are mandated to go zero emissions by 2045,” he said.

“This will tell us how much methane our cattle and sheep are producing. It will tell us if we are underfeeding or overfeeding them. It will tell us if an animal is sick because it monitors their heartbeat and body temperature.”

Mr Butler said the technology could also improve animal welfare.

After a stray dog killed sheep on his property last year, he said he supported the tagging of domestic animals as well as livestock.

“Had the dog had a satellite tag on it, it would have been saved from an excruciating starvation lifestyle for nine months. All those sheep it killed would have been saved,” he said.

“That was a loose, wild dog trying to find its home, trying to live in that environment. It’s not the dog’s fault.

“Wouldn’t it make sense that when you register your dog, you have to put a satellite tag on it and give a link to the [council]? That way every time a cat or dog went outside its geofence, it could send a ping to the shire ranger and they could fine the owner.”

Mr Butler began applying the smart tags to livestock last week and said he believed the technology would change the face of farming in Australia.

“It’s going to be one of the biggest revolutions in agriculture that I’ve ever witnessed,” he said.

“Everyone who listens and understands it is embracing it. The uptake from the farmer participants is massive.

“People have to stop thinking the government, police or the shire are going to save us. More than 99 per cent of [stolen] stock is never recovered and no one is ever charged.

“Community working together will always be 10 times stronger than the authorities.”