Is a cow in heat, suffering from a stomach ache or might she become ill? For many years, different systems have been used to monitor the activity of cows and detect heat, mainly using foot or neck tags. With its partner Smartbow, the Linz Center of Mechatronics, EARTO member through UAR, has developed EARTAG, an innovative software linked to sensors able to capture not only the position of the animals, but also analysing their health status. For this, the positional change of the animals as well as the movement of their ears are recorded to determine typical behavioural patterns by means of algorithms. The Smartbow’s eartag can be used simultaneously for official animal identification and behavioural monitoring. It allows customers to recognise germinating diseases and the initial mating behaviour of their animals several days earlier. As a result, veterinary treatments can be improved and optimized, enabling a reaction in time to avoid expensive medications or even disposals.
The ear movement pattern algorithm has been developed using data from ≈27,000 cattle with ear tags
With a current total of 35 employees, smartbow generates annual revenues of €35m
Smartbow’s share of exports is ≈ 98%
Worldwide potential of ≈250m dairy cows and 1m cattle all that could be equipped with this eartag
Using an app to locate cows
It is easy for many systems to recognise when a cow is not at the milking parlour, but locating this cow in a herd of multiple animals is quite a challenge and a heavy burden for farmers. With this smart eartag, animals that need to be inseminated or treated, or the ones that have not yet been to the milking robot, can be located much faster via a simple app. This required pushing the tag design all the way to the limits set by the geometry and electrical principles to miniaturise the electronics. The tracking chips in the eartag transmit blinks to base stations attached in the field. An algorithm then takes data from at least four of these stations to calculate the exact position of the cow.
Ehealth for cows
In addition to ion detection, the eartag provides data about the health of the animal. This is done by an acceleration sensor and an algorithm for detecting ear movement pattern. The software records data such as a cow eating less, lying down less frequently, or walking more, and sends alerts in case of sudden and longer-term changes. This allows early recognition of digestive disorders, or metabolic diseases, and early detection that the cow is in heat. This leads to improved veterinary treatments and better inseminating results, shorter calving intervals and higher milk yield with less work effort for the farmer. It also provides more time for the farmer for other tasks.
Targeting worldwide commercialisation
The eartag is already produced by Smartbow GmbH and sold directly to farmers in Austria and Germany, with cooperations with various sales partners in Europe and the US. Around 250M dairy cows and 1M cattle worldwide could be equipped with this eartag to continuously control their location and health status and recognise diseases and mating behaviour earlier. Through the cooperation with Zoetis, a worldwide market penetration will be sought in the coming years. With a current total of 35 employees, Smartbow generates annual revenues of 35M euros, and the share of exports is approximately 98%. The collaboration between LCM and Smartbow will continue to develop new functionalities.