Cattle Collars Could Offer Early Warning Signals In Cow Health

GLOBAL – Farmers could be able to treat cow health problems before symptoms first appear, thanks to exciting new research at Writtle College.
calendar icon 10 May 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

By attaching tracker collars to cows, illnesses such as lameness and mastitis, which cost the UK dairy industry £100 million annually, could be treated sooner, improving cow welfare.

The principle of the idea works by attaching battery-powered sensors to cattle that communicate with each other every eight seconds.

The theory is that herd health information from individual cows can be combined with behavioural data from the sensors to build up a predictive model for disease detection.

Dr Jonathan Amory, Animal Behaviour and Welfare Lecturer at Writtle College says that sick cows behave differently to healthy ones and by monitoring variations farmers could be offered an early warning system.

“A sick cow might lie down in different areas of the shed or split itself away from the herd, or use the same areas at different times, or go to eat a bit later,” says Dr Amory. “Our aim is to use these differences in behavior to quickly identify cows that are becoming ill and this should lead to an early warning system for farmers.”

The technology could potentially be used on herds of over 1000 cattle and have a global impact, helping commercial dairy units in the US, Canada and New Zealand.

The study commenced in November last year on a 120 cow herd in Essex. Further data is to be collected in Deveon with results expected later this year.

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