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The predictive power of ASKBILL immortalised in song

Monday 10th of July 2017
Rhonda Brooks
Rhonda Brooks

An off-the-cuff comment and a spur of the moment decision to “have a go” have resulted in the sheep industry’s new predictive app, ASKBILL, being brought to life in song by Uralla musician Rhonda Brooks.

Performed in a bush ballad style by Coffs Harbour musician Mal Winckle, the track is proving a popular addition to the ASKBILL website, helping to capture producers’ imagination as to the possibilities on offer through the use of predictive data technologies.

But it may never have happened if it wasn’t for a staff member at the Sheep CRC jokingly suggesting that the app promotional campaign needed a song.

Ms Brooks, who also works as the Sheep CRC’s office manager, caught her co-workers off guard a week later when she arrived at an ASKBILL project meeting with song lyrics in hand.

“There was passing comment at a meeting about an ASKBILL song, and I thought ‘I can do that’ and decided to give it a go,” Ms Brooks said. “I arrived at our next team meeting fully prepared for everyone to say, ‘Oh no, we were only joking,’ but the team read the lyrics and were excited by them, and decided it was worth recording.”

“The song came together quite quickly and easily because I knew the background quite well through working at the Sheep CRC on the ASKBILL project, and I knew where the inspiration for the app came from.”

Ms Brooks usually writes modern folk/indie music but felt the traditional bush ballad style was better suited to the story of ASKBILL and drew on some personal inspiration in bringing the story to life.

“My father was a shearer and very much into that style of music and poetry, so I grew up on farms listening to him reciting the likes of Banjo Paterson,” she said.

“As the ASKBILL app has been developed in Australia for people who work in the bush, it made sense to write it as an Australian bush ballad. There was a story to be told about how the app came about and how it can assist producers with their farm management decisions – a song is a great way to communicate this.”

ASKBILL was recently released by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) as a web-based application. It has been designed to complement producers’ knowledge with supporting analytical information about their livestock and pastures, with the predictive capabilities helping to identify opportunities and threats at a farm level from the weather, pests or disease.

The catchy song lyrics also capture the inspiration behind the app, Dr Bill McClymont’s agricultural ecosystem map, as well as its many uses in helping to understand more precisely how various factors interact to create risks and opportunities.

Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the song was a fun way of sharing the message of the opportunities on offer to producers from using ASKBILL.

“The ASKBILL app is all about providing sheep producers the critical information to help producers make farming decisions, protecting the wellbeing of their flock and maximising productivity,” Prof. Rowe said.

ASKBILL draws on information generated by biophysical models that use daily downloads of climate data and weather forecasts to provide alerts in relation to key factors that can affect sheep production:

  • The risk of flystrike
  • Pasture production and feed budgets
  • The risk of parasite infection, and
  • Risks associated with extreme weather events – heat and cold.

The predictive capabilities of ASKBILL, and the fact that is customized for individual farms and the sheep that they run, means that it can be used to complement the expertise based on experience and observation to help with management decisions.

  • ASKBILL is currently available to producers as part of a pre-commercialisation user trial, with a full commercial release of the product scheduled for November 2017. For more information visit www.askbill.com.au

DownloadDownload media release (159 KB)

Download ASKBILL Song
Download ASKBILL Song


Download the ASKBILL song here - https://sheepcrc.org.au/goto/ASKBILLSong