Why connected cows could be a big part of agriculture’s future
As you look across your cattle herd, how soon are you able to identify cows that aren’t feeling well? Early diagnosis not only reduces your risk of mortality but the number of times you may have to treat a sick animal.
“Historically, there are 22.5 million cattle on feed displaying symptoms of illness each year, with 2% to 3% of those animals dying from sickness,” notes Andrew Uden, Quantified Ag. “Connected technology can help reduce that number and transform how the industry identifies sick animals.”
Based in Lincoln, Nebraska, Uden, along with Vishal Singh, developed a proactive system to track an animal’s biometrics through an ear tag equipped with sensors.
“Our work actually started in thermal imaging with cattle and drones,” notes Singh. “As we learned more about the cattle industry and what its pain points were, we dropped the idea of drones – for now – and focused on sensors for ear tags.”
Whether on foot, four wheeler or horseback, producers spend valuable hours monitoring their herd’s health. Often times symptoms aren’t recognized for at least two to three days after an animal becomes ill. With the Quantified Ag ear tag diagnose now is cut to two to three hours. It also means sorting and treating sick animals can be done much faster than before.
Initially developed for the feedlot industry, tags fastened to an animal’s ear collect and perform analysis of biometric and behavioral data on an animal. Proprietary algorithms flag an animal showing signs of illness or disease and alert a producer through his smartphone, tablet, email, SMS, or a secure website. In addition, an LED light on the tag flashes to easily identify the sick cow.
To see the most benefit from the system, feedlot owners/managers need tags to last for six to eight months. While their sensors have that ability, research is being done to increase the life of the battery.
“The range between the tag and the receiver is about a 1/3 to ½ of a mile, which is why we focused on the confined space of a feedlot,” explains Uden. “Hopefully, 10 years down the road range will be a different issue. We will continue to adapt our product to make it better.”
And as the technology continues to evolve, the company will also look to include other aspects of health like pregnancy as well as evaluate application in different livestock.
“Once we have this completed for feedyard customers, I think there might be an opportunity to tweak it and make it applicable to other concentrated industries like hogs,” notes Uden.
The Quantified Ag system will include a biometric sensing ear tag and a data analysis tool set that is subscription based and applied on a per animal basis.
The toolset includes a private and secure customer portal to see detailed reports and analysis of live or historical data. A smart phone and tablet app are available to round out the system providing herd health access and alerts from anywhere.