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    Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 1 March 2006 Referencing Hub media

    Electronic monitoring of cow behaviour on the farm and information collected by the sensors (electronic measuring tools) in the milk lines provides detailed information on the health of the cows and the quality of their milk. Jenny Jago, Kendra Davis and Rod Claycomb explain.


    Dr Jenny Jago (DairyNZ)

    The whole system is linked together with a computing system, so we have a computer in a control room downstairs. On this farm all the cows have a little device on their leg, and that is their electronic identification, and that is really important. The system doesn’t work without that. The robot knows which cow she is when she walks into the machine and it knows then that the information it gathers through the sensors belongs to that cow. So in a computer system that ID links the outputs from the sensors, and the information around the behaviour of that cow and stores it all in one place. If you look on the computer you can ask for cow, number 15 for example, and if you plug that in, you will get all the information for cow number 15.

    Also, if you look out on the farm, we gather information about where cows are at any particular time - how often they visit the area where they drink their water, how long they spend on the races, how long they get to spend on the grass. So from that information we can pick up whether a cow is struggling out on the farm, or going really well.

    So you’ve got two aspects, you’ve got information about the behaviour of the cow and how she is managing out on the farm, and information about the cow in terms of her milk. And using those two bits of information you can make decisions on that cow. You can pick out if that cow is not very well, or if she is producing and performing really well.

    Dr Kendra Davis DairyNZ)

    At the moment we’ve got sensors that detect the quality of the milk, which give an indication of the cows’ wellbeing. Cows are quite prone to infections in their udders and if we can pick that up early enough, then we can treat the cow so that we minimise the amount of discomfort she has. It also improves the quality of the milk that we send to the factory. So it reduces the costs at the factory of having to treat milk and things like that. There are plenty of other sensors that are being developed for all sorts of things, and people have got lots of ideas about what could be developed as well.

    Dr Rod Claycomb (Sensortec)

    We’re looking to develop sensor technologies that can help farmers diagnose problems within their cows by way of measuring things in the milk. So components that will help them measure the status of fertility, mastitis, milk quality, and other items of animal health and nutrition.