Precision Agriculture isn’t just for row crops these days. There are many new and exciting tech gadgets now available that can allow you to collect all kinds of information about your livestock without even having to go out your front door. And the gadgets don’t just collect the data. They also analyze it and recommend actions to take. It’s never been this easy to identify problems in your herd and address them quickly. It’s right at your fingertips!
Read on to learn about some of the newest tech for cows- two new models of smart ear tags, the Halter Hoop, and the TCP Portfolio.
Smart Ear Tags
Smart Ear Tags are basically like a “fitbit for cows.” One is placed on a cow’s ear just like any other tag, but has sensors to collect data and a transmitter to share the data with the farmer. There are two new smart ear tag products now available on the market- one by Allflex and one by Herddogg.
The Allflex SenseTime Beef system can detect cattle estrus and overall health, and is designed specifically for beef cattle operations. The tag works mostly by tracking movement which is then interpreted by algorithms.
Cows in estrus, for example, change their normal behavior — often eating and ruminating for shorter periods of time. Antennae pick up movements from the battery-powered monitoring tag, they are interpreted and the producer is sent an alert.
In the case of estrus, the alert will notify a producer which cows need to be bred within a given window of time. The system can detect which cows have aborted, and provide early detection of anestrous cows. On the health side, it can deliver alerts for distress cases, and help monitor recovery after calving as well as after weaning. Group routine can also be tracked, helping to raise early awareness that heat stress or nutrition issues are developing.
Allflex has only been implemented on a few large operations. To date, they have 3,000 cows in their system. However, it’s been around since 2015- so there’s a lot of data available that prove the system is effective. Bruning Farms is a fourth-generation seedstock and commercial Angus cattle operation and has tried the Allflex ear tags.
Reiss Bruning said they focused on using the system with heifers they develop, which average around 150 head each year. During this public launch event, Reiss shared his experiences, noting he saw an 8% increase in AI conception rates the first year; with rates holding about 5% above average for the last two years. He also narrowed down the first-cycle calving window by 10 to 14 days.
If you want to get started with the Allflex there are two packages available. Tags that include only estrus detection cost $56 each. Tags that include estrus detection, overall health, and group reporting cost $72. The cost to set up the software and readers is $2700. The software will run on both Macs and PCs.
Herddogg develped a new smart ear tag with a microprocessor that has the capability to collect a variety of data. It measures things like activity level, temperature and microclimate. CEO and founder of Herddogg, Melissa Brandao says,
“So, from that ear tag we’re looking at generally biometric data and microclimate data from the animal.”
The collected data is sent to bluetooth readers called “doggbones” that are placed around the property. The readers are completely deployed and not directly connected to a base station- so you can place them wherever you like. That data on the doggbones will upload to your mobile phone or tablet whenever you are nearby, and you can then store that information in the cloud.
The device allows farmers to collect a lot of information about their cows without a lot of direct involvement. Brandao says the devices will work on a variety of animals- not only cows. They’re currently testing a system that could be used on chickens.
The Herddogg starter pack costs $500 and includes 25 tags, 1 doggbone, and 12 months of online access to the app. The Herddogg app is currently only for Android, but iOS is coming soon.
The Halter Hoop is a new product under development in New Zealand that’s designed to provide global technology for the future of dairy farming. It’s basically a collar for cattle that comes along with software. You purchase the Halter app with a subscription, and the company owns and maintains the collars. It’s designed to be smart, simple, and not create a lot of extra work for farmers.
With the Halter Hoop farmers have the ability to remotely shift and manage cattle. Schedules can be set that remotely guide herds when it’s milking time. The Halter can create virtual fences to keep cattle out of dangerous areas. It can also notify you when cows are lame, about to calve, or are in heat. It monitors temperature, cow health and other complex cow movements.
The Halter Hoop is actually solar powered and GPS enabled. Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO and Halter director says,
“Halter is set to redefine an industry and truly modernize farming.”
The company recently received $8 million in financing to commercialize the Halter Hoop. It’s not available in the US yet, but the company has plans for it soon. US customers can preorder it now.
Teat Condition Portfolio (TCP)
The National Mastitis Council has announced the new Teat Condition Portfolio (TCP). It’s designed to be a user-friendly tool that can help farmers evaluate teat health right there in the barn. It’s an online resource that provides over 250 images of different teat conditions.
Farmers can search the site by keyword to hone right in on the symptoms. Or, they can click through the images to find similar scenarios that match the ailments that they are seeing.
TCP is a members-only benefit. Only individuals that are members of the NMC have access to the tool. Over 1000 users have utilized the tool so far, and the feedback has been positive. An annual membership to NMC is $165 for individuals and $25 for students. Check out their membership page here.