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article imageDairy farmers using technology to keep their herds healthy

By Karen Graham     Nov 13, 2016 in Technology
In 350 farms in two dozen countries around the world, dairy cows have had a hotdog-sized wireless sensor embedded in their stomachs. This may sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, but it actually will help farmers to better manage their herds.
Developed by an Austrian start-up called SmaXtec, the half-pound sensor tracks various health parameters continuously after being placed in the cow's stomach, including stomach pH, movement, activity and temperature.
The sensor can also identify when the cow is in heat and can predict a cow's pregnancy with 95 percent accuracy. "The crux of any dairy farm is fertility," one farmer tells Bloomberg. "We are trying to have a calf per cow every year. Everything we do on the farm comes back to that."
The sensor is easily inserted into the rumen of the cow where it begins monitoring a number of healt...
The sensor is easily inserted into the rumen of the cow where it begins monitoring a number of health parameters.
The device which rents for $10.00 per cow a month has a battery life of about four years. SmaXtec says on its web page the sensor is inserted into the first of the cow's four stomachs using a metal rod where it lodges in the rumen. A base station in the barn picks up the signals, adds readings of ambient temperature and humidity and uploads all the information to the cloud.
One of the major advantages to using the sensor is the continuous monitoring. Animals can't tell you when they first get sick, with humans only becoming aware of an illness after it has become rampant in the animal. While the sensor cannot diagnose an illness, it will let the farmer know when something needs attention.
If an animal appears to be ill, the system e-mails the veterinarian days before the cow is visibly sick. When a cow comes into heat, the farmer also gets a text message.
This means that illnesses can be picked up days before they become evident, saving on veterinary bills and the use of antibiotics. Quartz says that over 15,000 cows have had the sensors implanted in Britain since SmaXtec started its service six years ago.
If SmaXtec has its way, many more of the world's 1.4 billion cows will be getting the high-tech device installed in their stomachs. Right now, they are focusing on herds in the US, Middle East, and China, where it's not unusual to have dairy herds of 25,000 cows.
More about Technology, dairy herds, SmaXtec, inside monitoring, wireless sensor
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