‘Fitbits’ For Cows Could Be the Future of Dairy Farming
Farmers could soon be monitoring their herd’s health via Wi-Fi.
Photo via Flickr user CAFNR
Remember the Fitbit phase that had everyone sauntering into the office wearing running shoes and humble-bragging about how many steps they'd taken before 9 AM?
The digital pedometer may now have gone the way of Zumba DVDs, home aerobics kits, and other short-lived fitness trends, but scientists in the US say they've found a new market for health-monitoring tech: cows.
Well, kind of.
Last week, researchers at Cornell University released a new study detailing how the health of dairy cows could be monitored using tags that carry an accelerometer—the same piece of technology used in fitness tracking devices like the Fitbit. Using Wi-Fi to transmit the data from these tags to a computer, farmers were able to check on the health of their cows quickly and from afar.
The research, which was published in the Journal of Dairy Science, shows that the tag effectively picks up on the movements of the cows, as well as rumination (when cows regurgitate digested food and ingest it again), which should both occur in a regular rhythm. Farmers usually have to check on these things themselves, but the data collected by the tags can be calculated into an algorithm to create an overall health index for the cow.
Using this algorithm, a completely healthy cow will score 100. Should this score fall below 86, the farmer will know to check on the cow for any disorders. However, Julio Giordano, senior author and animal science researcher, said in a press release that the technology should not entirely take the place of a farmer.
He said: "It doesn't eliminate the need for a physical exam, but what it does eliminate is the need to look at every single cow. You can just focus on the cow that needs attention, where there is an indication of a problem."
The Fitbit-like device is far from the only technological advancement seen in the dairy industry. Farmers are already using drones to check on herds and environmental scientists are experimenting with ways to capture the harmful methane gases emitted by cattle.
It seems agriculture is be becoming more and more like a real-life version of Farmville. Oh, wait.