NSW Farmers turn to drones to monitor livestock and crops as floodwaters isolate paddocks

With widespread flooding preventing farmers from gaining access to their properties, landholders are increasingly turning to drones to manage livestock and crops.

Key points:

  • Major flooding across New South Wales has cut farmers off from large parts of their properties 
  • A drone pilot trainer says demand for the technology has grown rapidly in the past year 
  • A sheep and cattle farmer says using drones has saved their livestock from floodwater 

A third La Nina weather pattern has brought heavy rainfall and flooding to much of the east coast of Australia. 

This has resulted in farmers across New South Wales becoming isolated from large parts of their properties. 

Sheep, cattle and wheat farmer Anne Earney said her property near Bedgerabong in the state's Central West has been "underwater" for the past 12 months. 

Ms Earney said she had turned to drones to ensure livestock was safe from the floodwaters. 

"We move the sheep with the drone, not far, but enough to give them the idea of where to go. It is very useful and saves a lot of worry. 

Drone shot of farm covered in brown floodwaters. The house is on a small island.
The use of drones has allowed farmers to check on isolated livestock.(Supplied: Kevin Weismantel)

Another weather front is moving across New South Wales, once again bringing the threat of flooding to large areas of the state. 

Ms Earney said the drone had allowed her to better track river rises to ensure no livestock were lost. 

"If the water does get a lot higher, which it could next week, we will be able to go and check and move the stock as needed away from the water." 

Growing drone demand 

Ben Watts trains farmers across the central west in how to use the aviation devices.

He said demand for drones had grown rapidly in the past year. 

Read more on the flooding in NSW:

"Over the last 12 months [drone use] has been growing a lot and then of course the effects over the last three or four weeks with these ongoing floods has resulted in a lot of enquiries from growers." 

A bearded man standing next to an agriculture drone
Drones have eased stress on farmers navigating floodwaters, according to drone trainer Ben Watts.(ABC Rural: Hamish Cole)

Mr Watts said the drones had removed the stress of getting across paddocks during flooding. 

"We can scout more country, more quickly, we are not leaving wheel marks on our farming country. 

"The big game changer is time saving, people are just finding they are not getting bogged because they can stay on their access tracks." 

Managing crops 

Farmers across New South Wales have reported crop losses of 50 per cent due to the heavy falls. 

Ms Earney said the drones have enabled her to more effectively track their losses. 

"We have been able to go out and see where the water has gone through the crops and know, 'Yep it is up to that point'. 

"We haven't got all the crops sown and some that we have sown are now underwater." 


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