An intelligent ear tag which uses sensor technology could help dairy farmers make significant cost savings by shortening calving intervals and cutting veterinary bills.
The Smartbow ear tag uses acceleration sensors to pick up vibrations from cows’ ears.
Data from those movements is collected by receivers mounted in a cow shed and analysed in real-time to identify whether individual animals are eating, resting, on heat or ruminating. Farmers are alerted to any changes to activity via their PC, tablet or smartphone, and if they need to check on an animal, the system can provide the cow’s exact location.
Developed by Zoetis, the system uses specially-formulated algorithms which are individual to each cow on the farm. Over time, it learns each cow’s behaviour, meaning it can provide increasingly accurate and individual alerts.
Launching the product at the Dairy-Tech UK event in Stoneleigh, Zoetis national veterinary manager Dave Armstrong said the tags were helping farmers detect illness early – often long before cows started to show obvious clinical signs.
By monitoring ear movements which indicate rumination length, diseases such as ketosis could be detected up to 60% faster, leading to a 25% improvement in overall disease costs, he said.
The real-time localisation tool could also save farmers significant time looking for sick animals in the shed.
“The tags can also detect if the animal is on heat, improving fertility efficiencies,” he added.
“In trials we’ve seen a 10-day improvement in calving intervals based on improved submission rates, as well as reduced services due to improved conception thanks to the correct timing of service.”
Mr Armstrong said average costs for a 200-head herd were £142/tag, plus a £7/cow annual service fee for the premium service. Tags will last for the lifetime of the cow and are reusable, while the tags’ replaceable batteries last for about two years.