As part of Western Kentucky University’s (WKU’s) SmartHolstein Lab project, HerdDogg, a supplier of measuring and tracking sensors and systems, installed its Bluetooth® animal biometrics tags, called DoggTags, on the entire herd that’s being studied on a dairy farm.
Ethan Heinzmann, HerdDogg’s dairy program manager says,“Our tags are mounted in the ear. The accelerometer in the tags captures all movements of the ear and head of the animal.”
HerdDogg can relate these movements to particular behaviors. They know how some movements relate to resting and some are more dramatic and relate to behaviors of higher activity, such as estrus. During estrus cattle exhibit a range of behaviors. In the early stages, they are curious and somewhat restless. As their event progresses, they become increasingly engaging with other herd mates. They will attempt to mount or somewhat wrestle with other animals and then at their peak they will allow others to mount. This range of behaviors are captured with the accelerometer, and they can systematically relate those to the user indicating the activity of the animal and the potential intervention needed.
Conversely, if an animal’s exhibition of lower activity becomes more frequent, HerdDogg can alert the user of a possible adverse health situation. The value of this is immense—particularly in transition cattle or those having just calved and beginning the early stages of lactation. Cattle experience many different metabolic situations during this time period and the ability to more quickly identify when an animal is challenged is important.
According to Melissa Brandao, HerdDogg’s founder and chief revenue officer, “The long-range tag generates biometrics on the animal as well as location.” This data and its subsequent processing allow the farmer to gain better insight into their animals’ health. Also, the data moves with the cow’s transition since the traceability platform has a quick response (QR) code for each animal that follows the animal all the way through the food chain.
The user can define what is behind that QR code that moves both physically with the animal and digitally in the system. When the harvested animal is boxed, the QR code follows it on the box. When the end user, such as Whole Foods, splits the box, the QR code is copied and put on the package, so a buyer can scan the code for information regarding when the animal was born, where it was raised, its breed and more.
Traceability is increasingly important to consumers and ranchers that provide the data differentiate themselves from those that cannot. For example, grass raised beef that does not contain antibiotics or hormones is one special classification of beef that warrants greater attention – both by the consumer and the breeder. With a reach of more than 100 yards, DoggTags with Bluetooth® data transmission have 1,000% greater range than RFID tags and up to 5 years of battery life for tracking cows gazing in the field.
In addition to GPS tracking, the unit’s on-board sensors report in real-time enabling remote monitoring of the animal’s well being. Detailed biometric data from the sensors in the tag provide insight into each animal’s activity, whereabouts, and water and food intake. SmartHolstein project sensors also include indwelling sensors and milk-based biomarkers.