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Eyes in the sky: How our drones make cattle ranching easier

Read Time: 3 minutes

June 06, 2024


What do lawyers and cattle ranchers have in common? 

Just ask Alexandre and Gustavo Parise. The brothers — full-time lawyers and ranchers — see the parallels every day. In both fields, say the siblings, they find, analyze and use data and evidence to make decisions.

As co-owners of a law firm in Riberão Preto, Brazil, Alexandre and Gustavo added “ranchers” to their resumé (and became Cargill animal nutrition customers) two decades ago after they inherited the Fazenda São Lucas ranch from their father. 

The catch? Their ranch is in Santa Helena de Goiás — an eight-hour drive from their home. That made managing the farm and its employees challenging and time-consuming. And it made life quite stressful, Alexandre says.

At least until they started using new Cargill drone technology that (quite literally) changed their outlook. We developed Cargill CattleView in partnership with Kasco Tecnologia to provide Brazilian producers with autonomous flying drones that offer a bird’s-eye view of their feedlot. It’s one of several agriculture technology innovations we’re bringing to farmers like the Parise brothers.

Today, the technology allows the Parise brothers to manage their ranch from afar and their operations to be more efficient.

"Dare I say we manage our feedlot much better when we are in Riberão Preto than when we are on the farm,” Alexandre says.


The challenge: ‘A slow and challenging process’

Two men smile in an office, surrounded by books. Gustavo Parise (left) and Alexandre could only visit their cattle ranch every two or three weeks, which made managing the ranch tedious and inefficient.  

Before CattleView, the Parise brothers faced several challenges. 

In addition to the stress of traveling long distances to the farm, daily work at the ranch was becoming inefficient. Fazenda São Lucas employees would personally check the cattle, manually collecting data they would later analyze to determine the animals’ feed needs for the day. 

“It was a slow and laborious process to determine the animals' comfort or discomfort, or whether they were thirsty or hungry,” Gustavo says.

One of the biggest challenges for cattle ranchers with large feedlots is feed bunk management. That means properly managing the amount of feed and water that each cattle pen requires daily. 

Many factors can affect that calculation: the number of animals in each pen and their weight, feed leftovers, difficult-to-predict weather events, food delivery issues and other unexpected challenges. 

“Feed bunk management is one of the daily activities that can make the largest difference for a cattle customer,” explains Gilson Regadas, Cargill CattleView product manager. “Continuous miscalculations can lead to cumulative losses for a rancher.” 


The solution: A new outlook on the feedlot

Cargill CattleView combines drones, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to give livestock farmers real-time data about their animals’ welfare and behavior. 

The drones are set for autonomous flights — allowing anyone to operate them, regardless of their experience — and capture aerial images of the pens. 

Those images are then uploaded to an online platform and analyzed by artificial intelligence. The system shares a visual report on the current needs of the cattle, allowing for ranch employees to take immediate action. 

For the Parise brothers, it means a less stressful, more data-driven way to manage their farm.

“CattleView helped us a lot by giving us an overview of the feedlot,” Alexandre says. “To sum it up, today we have the entire feedlot mapped in our hands.”


The impact: Efficiency goes up, waste goes down

 A raw photo taken by the drones.

In this processed photo, animals are counted and classified as “standing” (red) and “lying down” (green). This classification, together with how the animals are spread out in the pens, is used to calculate their welfare.

This overall view of the feedlot shows a map of all the pens in the ranch. Green pens are good, orange pens require some attention and white pens are empty.

CattleView can reduce a rancher's labor cost by approximately $1 per head per year. It can also reduce the feed waste costs by $1 per animal per year and increase a rancher’s general profit by $6 per animal per year.

The drone technology has made a real impact on the Fazenda São Lucas ranch, too, the brothers say.

“Before CattleView, our employees needed almost three hours to go through and assess the entire ranch; that delayed any necessary interventions,” Alexandre says. “Now, our employees can easily operate the drones and quickly identify problems. We can solve those issues immediately. That’s saving our team about a third of their time.” 


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