On farm trials uniting information from precision technology are paving the future of dairy management, giving farmers easily accessible real-time information on cow health.
The unique Y-Ware project – run by the University of Nottingham and PrognostiX – is focusing on improving youngstock health, welfare and growth but has the capability to be rolled out to adult cows in the future, explains Dr Jasmeet Kaler, associate professor at the University of Nottingham. “The precision technology we are using monitors everything from temperature patterns to behaviour and growth rates, and we are using cutting edge machine learning techniques to develop algorithms to give early prediction of disease to producers.”
Now being trialled at Henscott Barton, Holsworthy, Devon, the Y-Ware project combines data from environmental sensors, inter-ruminal devices and an automated weighing platform to give early disease warnings. The dairy has 400 cows and 200 head of young stock, 30 of which have been selected to take part in the trial, explains Keith Evans, technical director at PrognostiX.
The first step for the project was to install a mixture of sensors to the young stock housing and the parlour to ascertain environmental readings from the farm. These include a mix of temperature and humidity sensors as well as sense hubs that also detect Co2, lux and air pressure.
“The inter-ruminal devices were then installed to measure the calves’ temperature, which combined with environmental readings give a clear picture of animal health and housing suitability,” adds Mr Evans. The next development of the device will also include EID and is currently undergoing testing.
The automated weigh platform has been installed offering direct access to a water trough, meaning the youngstock walk over it regularly, with IDs and weights being sent to the bespoke software. As no human interaction is needed to use the platform, it reduces the risks and stresses associated with handling livestock.
“We are extremely fortunate that the farmer on this site sees the benefits of this technology and wants to improve his farm by using innovative systems that will lead to a more efficient system,” says Mr Evans. “He has learnt how the technology is used and works alongside his vet to understand that data and analyse what the readings mean for his calves.”
Using developments in radio-frequency identification technology (RFID), the system will be both easy to use and affordable, he explains. “It’s ‘plug and play’ technology. Basically, all users have to do is plug it in and it’s ready to go. No difficult installations or complex set-ups like other EID systems on the market.”
The project will run until September 2020, with the aim of making the technology commercially available within this time. “The first year has involved getting the technology ready as it is not off-the-shelf and has had to be specifically built,” says Dr Kaler. “Now we will be using all this data to train and develop algorithms to ensure it is robust before rolling it out.”
Results from the project are expected to become available from next year, while the Sense Hub, Comms Hub, RFID, antennae will soon be available to purchase.