Auto sheep counting test in saleyards

Auto sheep counting tested in saleyards


The viability of auto sheep counting in places like saleyards was put to the test at Bendigo this week.


Victoria's saleyards are the next arena to gauge the viability of utilising the latest vision artificial intelligence to count sheep.

The Bendigo Regional Livestock Exchange, Huntly, was chosen as a site to test automatic video sheep counting using advanced computer vision and pattern recognition algorithms.

Leading chief investigator, University Technology Sydney, professor Jian Zhang, said the technology had been developed to count sheep for loading onto live export vessels to help address animal welfare issues while counting sheep in real-time at multiple locations.

Professor Zhang said the plan was to expand the application of technology to the saleyard environment in the unloading, loading and movement of sheep around the yards.

Dr Zhang said the number of unloading/loading ramps meant the sheep counting process was labour intensive.

He said the combined use of new AI sheep counting technology with electronic identification tags could "dramatically improve efficiency and productivity".

The units could be deployed at any position around the yards.

Dr Zhang said the loading/unloading ramps carried large numbers of sheep and was where the technology was most useful.

Trials at Bendigo this week proved the system was extremely accurate and at a high number of sheep, he said.

The system stored the video which could be reviewed to check the accuracy of the count.

The next stage if a funding partner was found, was on developing a "digital gate" that was portable or fixed.

The future unit would integrate the power unit and camera into one unit - a "counting unit".

The saleyard operator could buy the units or lease.

Australian Livestock Saleyards Association president Stuart McLean, said the technology and automation put an extra level of integrity into the system.

"The saleyards and the agents do a great job but this will assist them in their work. We are very much time bound to get things done and achieve required quality assurance standards and the more assistance you can get to run your systems the better," he said.

"We want to test it out and see whether it suits other yards.

"The investment in this technology is very cost efficient. This technology can piggyback off existing technology it just needs cameras in the right places."

Mr McLean said the project operators would continue to fine tune the systems to achieve 100 per cent accuracy.

Bendigo Regional Livestock Exchange manager, Andrew McCulloch said they were watching to see whether it was a viable solution for the industry into the future.

"The first thing is - does it work? - and if it does it's certainly got a place yards in the future," he said.

"Whether that's managing our auction stock or transit stock, there are a number of benefits that it could bring to the saleyards.

"At this stage we are happy to host them and allowing them to iron out an kinks it may have," he said.

Mr McCulloch said it was still a long way from being installed in the yards.

The story Auto sheep counting test in saleyards first appeared on Stock & Land.


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