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What wearables are revolutionizing the dairy industry?
A number of wearable technologies have been introduced into the world of dairy farming. With the increasing global demand of production, feeding the world is not an easy task. In this article, we cover some of the most innovative wearable technologies being developed to complement and support the skills of farmers to monitor production and access the health and welfare of their cattle. These technologies are used in the dairy industry for increased production and have proven economic benefits.
Types of wearables categorized according to function:
Radio frequency identification (RFID) systems are a huge breakthrough for the animal industry providing a lot of data-based management options for farmers. This allows individual cow management through a technological approach than the traditional manual management approach.
RFIDs contain microchips that can be read electronically by specialized readers. Farmers can obtain the detailed information on pedigree, health history, production performance and management events associated with the cow within seconds. This has helped producers to better manage the animals utilizing already available data on the farm.
The pedometers in animals resemble the Fitbit in humans but they are specialized to be used in animal production. IceQube by IceRobotics is one of the widely used pedometers to objectively measure animal behavior by tracking walking steps, resting bouts and much more in both the beef and dairy cattle industry. Products from other companies like Afimilk also have pedometers that are read in the milking parlor each time the animal goes to the parlor for milking.
Activity and rumination sensors:
There are a large number of commercially available devices that are based on activity recording using tri-axial accelerometers. These devices are offered to wear as an ear tag, nose halter or neck collar. This activity information is used by the farmers to detect if the animal is in estrus and manage reproduction effectively by artificial insemination. Some of these devices also measure feeding behavior (e.g. eating time, rumination (cud-chewing), drinking) that are related to physiological events and can be used to detect the health disorders based on these recordings.
There are devices used in animal industry that can predict the calving time based on monitoring the tail movement patterns triggered by labor contractions. One such device is the Moocall Calving Sensor that sends calving alerts via mobile text messages, emails and app notifications about one hour prior to calving. Some other devices like the Vel’Phone by Pharvet can predict calving based on an increase in vaginal temperature. The Vel’Phone enables farmers to remotely monitor day-to-day changes in vaginal temperature, calving progress and even the breaking of water.
Real-time recording of pH, temperature, and pressure in the animal stomach can be monitored through boluses in the rumen (one of the 4 compartments of the cattle stomach). Companies that offer such a technology include eCow, Moonsyst and iNOVOTEC. Once placed in its place, these sensors record the parameters in real time basis providing alerts when an animal deviates from the normal range of these physiological parameters. These devices are useful to detect conditions like bloating and acute acidosis in dairy cattle.
The advancement of wearable technology offers many opportunities for dairy farmers to increase production, reduce labor costs, improve cattle health and remotely monitor cattle around the clock.
Image courtesy of pixabay.com
Sushil is an animal science researcher. He completed his Master's degree in Animal Health from West Texas A&M , USA. He has been working on various projects related to animal health research. His interests include precision dairy technologies, disease detection, animal health clinical trials, transition cattle diseases, metabolic diseases of dairy cattle, and dairy herd health management.
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