Dairy cow is the most connected farm animal. Automatic and robotic systems can reduce routine workload and free-up time for management tasks, which are simultaneously assisted by automatic and real-time data collection.
Automated milking systems (AMS) and robots can be enriched with electronic solutions such as automatic feeders, milk flowmeters and conductimeters, infrared spectrometry, laser assisted video cameras. These sensors will collect data related to physiological parameters, production measures and behavioural/welfare traits.
Such data can potentially help the decision-making process, enabling:
- to measure feed consumption and reduce feed wastage. Far from the parlour, some devices in the pasture can also indicate grass growth and height.
- to determine milk nutritional composition (protein, fat, lactose, fatty acids) but also biomarkers of udder health (somatic cells, lactate dehydrogenase), ketosis (BHB) and reproduction (progesterone)
- to assess body condition score through 3D imaging technologies.
Internet Of Things (IoT) based cows can be equipped with many wearable engineered devices.
Some equipments have been developed for in situ data collection: (1) ear tag, (2) halter, (3) neck collar with counterweight, (4) reticulo-rumen bolus, (5) rear leg pedometer, (6) upper tail ring, (7) tailhead inject, and (8) vaginal bolus. These sensors are used for heat detection, calving prediction, indoor and outdoor positioning, lameness detection, evaluation of rumination and eating time, measurement of rumen pH and temperature.
With high lactational performance, dairy cows of high genetic potential are reproductive animals which require constant monitoring. Dairy farms with increasing size allow less time from stockmen for individual surveillance. Sensors and IA can contribute to preserve health and performance of animals of high value. However, technologies can not fully replace human intervention.
Dairy cows are not the only connected animals: go to “Did you know ?” section !