Researchers in Australia are running a research program testing smart sensor technology as a means of preventing and detecting livestock theft.

The program, which is being run by researchers at the Central Queensland University, is currently looking for farmers to participate in the study.

It is hoped the research project will develop a new livestock monitoring system, which can be used by farmers and law enforcement agencies to remotely monitor animals.

Figures from the 2001‐2002 National Farm Crime Survey, which was conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology, showed that livestock theft was the most commonly reported rural crime, affecting 6% of farms.

This involved 186,777 animals with an estimated annual cost of $16m (€11.67m), figures show.

However, close to 65% of incidents go unreported and the true cost is more likely to be closer to $67m (€48.88m) a year, according to researchers.

Livestock theft can range from small incursions paring off a handful of animals from larger groups to much larger thefts, Project Leader and Associate Professor Mark Trotter said.

In some cases these thefts can escalate to major criminal operations in which entire herds are gathered into portable yards and transported in trailers, he added.

In all cases the opportunity to steal is a result of the inability of the farmer to constantly monitor the location and behavior of their livestock.

The Precision Livestock Management team in the Central Queensland University is recognised as a national leader in the use of sensor technologies to enhance animal production in Australia.

The project is set to collaborate with experts in engineering, to help with adapting sensors for use on livestock, and data management and visualisation.

One of the limitations of the National Livestock Identification System in place in Australia is that the location of an animal is only sporadically known, Trotter said.

The location of an animal is only known when livestock are bought, sold or moved along the production chain. At the moment, animal data cannot be accessed remotely or in real‐time, he added.

Researchers have designed a generic animal sensing platform with GPS technology to monitor animal movements. It is set to be tested in stock theft simulations.