What does technology mean for you? When it comes to farming, technology’s purpose must surely be to make life easier. To make operations more efficient. To facilitate enhanced productivity with a little less effort. And if it allows you to spend an extra five minutes enjoying your tea and toast in the morning, so much the better.
There has been no shortage of exciting technological innovations in the agricultural sector over the last five years. So – just for a moment – let’s pretend that money is no object. You can purchase whatever you wish. Where would you start? Here are eight of our favourite tech innovations for beef and dairy farmers.
1. CATTLE CARE GOES SKY HIGH
Drones: expensive kids’ toys or transformative business tools? It’s time to accept that drones can revolutionise the way you monitor your herd, checking the location of animals or the state of your fields without even leaving the farmhouse. Drones fitted with cameras and thermal imaging capabilities can monitor livestock movement, perform headcounts and locate stray animals – even at night or in areas of woodland.
There’s more. Drones are useful for monitoring your land too. After all, trudging the fields on a cold winter’s afternoon isn’t always the best use of your time. For example, you can quickly identify any fencing that requires repair, or areas of land that are dry and need watering. You can even use drones as a security device to deter criminal activity. Useful.
2. A BOVINE BRUSH TO KEEP COWS COMFORTABLE
Ah, that’s the spot! Millions of cows around the world are getting groomed on demand thanks to the swinging cow brush. The brush begins rotating when a cow makes contact with it - and stops when they walk away. In between it covers all angles of the bovine body to stimulate blood circulation and keep cows comfortable. Okay, it’s not the most earth-shattering, boundary-smashing piece of technology on this list. But your herd will love it.
3. AUTOMATICALLY MONTIOR THE CONDITION OF ANIMAL HOUSING
Okay, here’s something truly ground-breaking. It goes without saying that comfortable cows are productive cows. It’s why everything from the air temperature and wind to humidity and water quality has to be just right in your cattle housing. Even slight fluctuations in environmental conditions can cause problems. Now you can monitor the environmental parameters of your cattle housing automatically thanks to an IoT platform patented by Cynomys. Designed specifically for livestock housing, the platform allows you to monitor and adjust more than 20 environmental parameters – such as noise, light and heat – via the cloud. The platform will even identify water leakages and electrical faults in your housing.
But this goes way beyond mere cow comfort. Harmful pollutants can accumulate quickly in cattle housing. For instance, high values of carbon dioxide (CO2), ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen sulphide (H2S) can reduce mucociliary activity, which is the first defence against pathogens. Meanwhile, ammonia has a toxic effect on the mucous membranes that line the cilia and can rupture the pulmonary alveoli – leaving your herd susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. It’s one clever system for monitoring and managing the environmental conditions in your housing – helping to ensure your herd is happy, healthy and productive.
4. SLASH LABOUR WITH ROBOTIC MILKING
Collecting the white stuff is the most important aspect of dairy farming. But it isn’t half labour intensive. That, together with the prospect of enhanced milk yields, has got many farmers handing milking duty over to robotic milking systems. No stress, no set milking times and no frenzied rush to the parlour. That alone works to enhance milk production.
Yet while robotic milking systems are becoming commonplace on many farms, the more modern systems do far more than simply collect milk. The latest robotic milking apparatus gather data on health and milk quality that are sent directly to your smartphone. Some systems even perform cell count analysis on every udder quarter at each milking to act as an early warning against mastitis.
5. THERMAL IMAGING TECHNOLOGY DETECTS ILLNESS
The use of thermal imaging may sound more at home in a James Bond film than a dairy farm. But it could do wonders for the health of your herd. Inflammation is a key sign of injury and illness in cows – and the thing about inflammation is that it produces heat. By using thermal imaging you can quickly identify these heat spots, making it easy to identify developing health issues before they begin to cause problems for your cows. And because early detection is the key to fast and effective treatment, thermal imaging can be great for your bottom line too. Sounds far-fetched? Many farmers are already using thermal imaging to detect issues such as mastitis, lameness, bluetongue and bumblefoot.
6. WEARABLE MONITOR THE HEALTH OF YOUR HERD
Wearable technology such as FitBit has blossomed over the last five years. But humans aren’t the only ones that can benefit. There is now a selection of wearable devices – such as Cowlar and Stellapps – available for cowkind too. All of them designed to monitor cow health, behaviour and performance – whether it’s steps per day, rumination or the amount of food consumed. With all the data sent to the cloud for you to access anytime, anywhere.
But the real benefits for farmers come from being able to monitor health and the oestrus cycle. Imagine, for example, receiving a smartphone or email alert when one of your cows enters heat. Or becomes pregnant. Or develops the early symptoms of a disease or infection. It allows you to take the guesswork out of health and welfare management and act decisively, based on what’s actually happening with your herd.
7. OPTIMISE CALF PERFORMANCE WITH COMPUTERISED FEEDING
Mixing milk. Carrying buckets. Day in, day out. Hand rearing calves is labour intensive. So why not let a computerised calf feeder do the job for you? It gives you total control over each calf’s nutritional intake, allowing you to make sure each calf reaches their full growth potential. A computerised feeding system also allows calves to feed on a little-and-often basis, as they would when suckling from their dam. The latest computerised systems will even deliver data on feeding frequency and consumption straight to your smartphone. So you can see your calves are progressing as they should.
8. SAVE THE PLANET, ONE COW AT A TIME
There’s a lot of media attention – much of it quite unfair – about cows and their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Here to make the world greener, one cow at a time, is Zelp (which stands for the Zero Emissions Livestock Project). This ground-breaking wearable halter automatically oxidises the methane released from the cow’s nostrils – which is where 90-95% of a cow’s methane emissions come from.
The benefit for you as a farmer? Well, as consumers become increasingly eco-conscious, it allows you to vouch for the environmental credentials of your business. You can also potentially seek higher margins through the sale of reduced emissions milk and beef products.
Good for Mother Nature, good for your bottom line too.
THINK ROI, NOT P&L…
Shelling out for new technology can feel daunting in an industry where profit depends on so many variables. But it’s important to balance the initial financial outlay with the economic benefits that new technology can bring to your business – such as reduced overheads, enhanced productivity, improved efficiency, less labour cost and more business security.
Do you have any agritech that you are considering? Share your thoughts with our farming communities on Twitter and Facebook. And for more support and guidance, take a look at the Resources section of our website. Thanks for reading!
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Published on: 23 December 2020
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