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.
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