Smart farming

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Remote weighing and data recording in calves

Beef and dairy farmers will soon be able to weigh their youngstock and take their temperature several times a day, without having to lift a finger.

A new project, which should be available on farms within the next 3 years, brings together the latest technology to remotely weigh and record data on calves and youngstock through to mature cattle. The project secured funding through Innovate UK, and at £1.13m (€ 1.27m) over 3 years is one of the biggest grants awarded through the scheme.

All data in 1 place

PrognostiX, which is developing the technology, is working with the Nottingham University and British Telecom (BT) on this smart solution, named Y-Ware. BT is working on the software and Nottingham University on the algorithms to turn statistics into meaningful alerts to farmers. Y-Ware is a small bolus that needs to be inserted into the calf’s rumen. Combining it with long-distance LoRa wireless technology, all the data can be pulled together in one place.

Photo: Jan Willem Schouten
Photo: Jan Willem Schouten

Wireless weighing platform

Next to the bolus, the company is developing a wireless weighing platform. “The idea is to locate the weighing platform by a water trough – whether inside or outside, it doesn’t matter,” explains Alan Beynon, director of PrognostiX. “Each animal will then be weighed every time it drinks, and the information, along with its temperature, will be processed by the Edge hub before it is sent wirelessly to the farmer’s computer or mobile device.”

By developing unique Edge technology to process data at the point of collection, the system only sends alerts when needed – for example when an animal has a temperature or isn’t gaining weight, which saves on battery usage and minimises the data package required. It’s also possible to keep other farm records, such as medicine usage, on the bolus, keeping everything in one place.

Pneumonia and scours

The Y-Ware bolus can be used in calves from 14 weeks of age. In due course we will be able to gather data from other sensors – such as housing temperatures and humidity – and use that to create the optimum farm environment for animal health and welfare. Pneumonia and scours are the most common health problems in calves, typically costing £82 (€ 92) and £57 (€ 64) per affected calf, respectively. “Using this new technology to reduce the incidence of disease will yield considerable savings in medicine use alone,” he adds. “When you consider the amount of time farmers spend rounding up animals to weigh them or treat them for disease, the labour saving will also be considerable, with less stress and improved health and safety for all involved.”

Olivia Cooper

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