Sick or not? The green light will tell

03-08-2017 | |
Sick or not? The green light will tell. Photo: Quantified Ag
Sick or not? The green light will tell. Photo: Quantified Ag

A US company has developed a bright green LED light, which is attached to the animal’s ear and is able to warn the farmer if an animal is sick. Dairy Global talked to Vishal Singh, founder and CEO of the company.

Pulling cattle out of large feedlots for treatment can be time consuming, provided you even know these animals are sick. Quantified Ag, based in Lincoln, Nebraska have therefore developed a light to attach to the cow’s ear that turns bright green when the animal is sick. The concept has been tested in US feedlots and is set to launch commercially soon.

Photo: Quantified Ag

Photo: Quantified Ag

How did you came up with the idea to make an ear tag with LED light?

“The system was designed from the start with concentrated cattle operations such as feedlots in mind. Feedlots tend to be highly organised and know which animals are in which pens. However, when a pen rider has to single out a specific animal in a pen there needs be to some visual indicator to help in narrowing down to the individual animal level. Hence the LED light on the ear tag, which is visible during the day and night.”

Is disease control in feedlots a problem? And how does your system help?

“The problem seems to be which animals to focus on. Like finding a needle in a haystack so to speak. Since the cattle hide their symptoms from humans, we don’t pick up on illness until late in the process. Our ear tags monitor the cattle 24/7 and therefore the cattle don’t need to hide their symptoms. Therefore picking up illness sooner than humans. This allows for early treatment.”

Does it require a specific software or hardware?

“To minimise the infrastructure requirements for the system, we developed our own base station that is installed in the cattle operation. The base station sends the data from each ear tag to our cloud servers. That is where we do the bulk of our processing and provide useful information back to the cattle producer via a web-based software dashboard.”

How accurate is the sensor and what are the costs?

“Our system does comparisons of data between animals. So, the sensitivity of the electronics is within this requirement. The antenna and base station install with tagging tool is a one-time fee of US$ 6,000. Then it’s $ 15 per head for the ear tag and software. So, the cattle producer can decide how many head would make sense for them.”

How does the tag know the animal is sick?

“The specifics of how our algorithms work is proprietary. However, I can tell you that it is indeed enough to detect illness. The temperature and activity combined are good indicators in our experience. Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is the most common cause of mortality and morbidity in US cattle feedlots (NAHMS, 2011). And therefore, our trials have a major focus on this. Our trials have thus far focused on early detection of illness in feedlots. And the results have shown that our system is able to flag animals with illness several days before clinical observation.”

What are the next steps to commercialise it?

“We’ve had several IP filings over the years. But will continue to add as we progress. We have also conducted some early clinical trials with very positive results. Now we are just in the process of completing fine-tuning through internal studies before a full launch.”

Will it only be available in the US and only for beef cattle?

“We are focused on launching this technology in the US for feedlots and stocker/backgrounders. Also there has been much interest from other countries such as Australia, Brazil, etc. Producers in the dairy industry have also shown great interest, although we have not done any testing there.”

Emmy Koeleman Freelance editor