Adapted from Janet Beekman (Boerderij) - Date: July 9th, 2018
Since last year dairy farmer Wil Smolders tracks cow behavior with Ida. It is a self-learning sensor system owned by Connecterra which improves the health and milk production of the cows.
Half of Wil’s cows wear a collar containing the sensor, the other half doesn’t. The project in which he is participating is a collaboration between Connecterra, ZLTO and Agrovision, in which Connecterra is the sensor supplier, Agrovision delivers a feed efficiency monitoring tool and ZLTO supports the farmer with consultancy. “We want to improve fertility and health to accomplish a higher life production and a higher lifespan of the cows”, says Smolders. “The project helps us to do this.”
Connecterras’ sensor the Intelligent Dairy Farmer’s Assistant (IDA), registers eating, ruminating, lying, walking, drinking and standing behavior. And it recognizes when the cow is in heat. These methods are not new, the method of registration however is. Connecterra uses internet of things combined with applied technology artificial intelligence in the sensor.
The risk group (dry and fresh cows) receive a collar with sensor. “They keep this sensor for 100 days after lactation, so Ida can keep tracking their behavior.”
Smolders gets messages in the app of Ida about divergent behavior. “For example about a cow that ruminates less or lies down a lot.” Connecterra wants to take over data analysis for the farmer, that is why Ida does not initially show graphs and data but action-oriented information about divergent behavior or movement. “I do have to figure out what is wrong with the cow, using my own skills to analyze the cow and see if and how I should anticipate.”
The effect of changes
Due to the registration of lying behavior Smolders discovered that the average lying time in his herd is 11 hours. Keeping in mind the optimal time of 14 hours, this is a little bit to less. This is something he wants to improve. “We installed new neckrails and want to change the beds from matrass to deep bedding to upgrade cow comfort.” Changes in the barn express themselves in cow behavior. “After the installation of the new neckrails we expect more rumination and eating time.” Ida also registers differentiation in behavior when the farmer changes the ration. “We use these registrations to make the appropriate adjustments in the ration. The connection to milk production data and calculations of feed intake and efficiency help to do this. Using this data we can see whether the ration is sufficient for an optimal milk production.” The feed data are monitored in ‘de voerwinstmonitor’ created and supported by Agrovision.
Smolders has not worked with sensors before. “The benefit of Ida is that Connecterra invests in the sensors, collars, hard and software. And it gives access to the Connecterra-cloud in which the actual data-analysis takes place”, says Smolders who pays €90,- per cow per year for Ida. “By just decreasing health cost we won’t earn the investment of this system back. But on the long term the system will continue to make more money, because problems will be noticed earlier and we will be able to work in a more preventive matter. Which will lead to increased technical results and a longer life span an life production.” The longer a farmers works with the system, the better it will know the farm and be able to predict what’s going on with a cow and thereby give an advice about how to act.” Smolders however emphasizes that the system is only supporting in managing the farm. “You have to have everything in order on the farm and already try to work in a preventive manner otherwise you will be overtaken by events."