An SMS and Email Weather Warning System for Sheep Producers
Sheep are vulnerable to hypothermia shortly after birth and shearing. Since the 1970’s sheep weather alerts have been reported at a regional scale by the media up to 24 hours prior to a chill event. The SMS and email weather warning system was designed as an enhanced service to provide sheep producers with advanced warnings of forth-coming chill events, based on local weather forecasts, with personalized chill warnings delivered by SMS and email. A trial was conducted with 30 sheep producers who selected one or more local weather stations and a low, medium or high sensitivity threshold to control the frequency at which messages were sent. Sensitivity thresholds were calculated for each weather station from historical data. Numerical forecast data were sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology, and an email and SMS sent each morning whenever forecast chill exceeded the warning threshold within the 7-day forecast period. Participants were interviewed by telephone after a 2-month trial. The alerts were found to be clear and reasonably accurate, but produced an unexpected high number of false warnings at some sites. The SMS format was well received, and farmers were generally happy to continue the trial. False warnings were attributed to over-prediction of wind speeds at some sites relative to on-ground weather stations, most of which were in northern Victoria.
KeywordsSheep forecast skill evaluation chill index
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