Fitbits for Cows? How Technology helps the Dairy Farmer

Everywhere you look, our lives are dominated by technology.

The ability to track and monitor information has never been greater – and the nation’s dairy farmers are seeing the benefits.

Wearable technology is the latest tech trend to hit dairy farms, according to Jeffrey Bewley with Alltech…

“Basically what we do is we borrowed ideas from other parts of the world. So a lot of the wearable technologies that we have on farms today, they’re basically like a Fitbit. They actually use the same technology that’s in a Fitbit, called an accelerometer. So we use the FitBit technology to measure things like activity levels for estrus detection, rumination time, eating time. So we get behavioral information based on these tags that are watching the cows 24 hours a day.”

On the horizon is more image-based technology, Bewley says, where cameras could evaluate important measures like body condition score, linear traits and locomotion scoring…

“We’re using the same cameras that are used in things like the Xbox. So we take those base technologies that become relatively inexpensive because of wide adoption levels in other industries, and we bring them into the dairy industry and modify them for our use to be able to provide us these new data sources, which gives us a lot of information from a day-to-day management perspective of the individual animals. I think the next horizon is being able to use this information for genetic selection also.”

The challenge, Bewley explains, becomes managing the data, and creating from it, impactful information to improve the overall dairy community…

“Data will be a source of competitive advantage for dairy producers. Those that are able to use data the best are going to be the most competitive, not unlike what we see in every other part of the world. It’s also going to be able to provide, I think, opportunities to provide healthier animals and to make the lives of the farmer a little bit easier…and so I think there’s a whole lot of intangible benefits to this kind of information.”

Holstein Association USA, the world’s largest dairy breed organization, offers the latest programs and services to ensure dairy producers take advantage of the latest technology – and the valuable information it provides.