How the “Internet of Cows” is Transforming Livestock Farming in Europe
Smart farming is a new approach to farming that utilizes cutting-edge technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), drones and robots to optimize sustainable agricultural production and reduce waste.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one such technology that is transforming the agriculture industry by providing farmers with real-time data on their crops, livestock, and environment.
IoT involves the use of sensors and data analytics to monitor and control soil moisture, temperature, nutrient levels, and health and behavior of livestock.
Through “Internet of Cows” or “connected cows,” IoT is making its way into livestock management application, which will improve animal welfare and boost productivity.
In this blog, we will explore how IoT is transforming smart farming and how it is being applied in European agriculture.
Advantages of IoT in Smart Farming
“Internet of Cows” refer to outfitting cows with IoT devices such as wearable collars, wearable tags, and battery-powered sensors.
The data received wirelessly through these IoT devices helps farmers to track and monitor the real-time health, behavior, and movements of their livestock.
These IoT devices track body temperature, heart rate, and milk production. It also provides real-time location of the cattle through installed GPS, which helps the farmers to understand cattle movement patterns as well as prevent overgrazing.
The real-time data on the health and behavior of the cows can help farmers in the early detection of illnesses or diseases.
For instance, IoT devices display a rise in a cow’s body temperature, which indicates an infection from a fever. With this information, farmers can effectively treat them, preventing further complications.
Similarly, if a cow is exhibiting signs of stress or discomfort, the farmer can take steps to alleviate it, such as adjusting their diet or environment.
Through the “Internet of Cows” or “connected cows,” farmers can monitor milk or dairy production. For instance, farmers can identify less productive cows and adjust their feeding or milking schedule to help them produce more.
Accurately predicting the optimal time to inseminate the cattle and identifying the genetic lines that produce the highest milk yield can significantly enhance efficiency and productivity in the dairy industry.
The Tech Behind Europe’s Connected Cows
IoT sensors can be attached to different parts of the cow’s body, such as the ankle, tail, neck, hooves, and stomach, which provide information to help farmers increase the efficiency and productivity of their herds.
Machine learning is applied to individual cow monitoring to improve efficiency and productivity, including predicting when a cow should be inseminated and which genetic lines produce the most significant milk yields.
Moreover, some IoT projects in European farms include reducing mortality rates in cows during calving and monitoring dietary health and temperature through the use of telemetry systems.
There are several initiatives being used in European farms to increase efficiency and productivity in the agricultural sector, such as:
· Connecterra, a Dutch software start-up, produces IoT trackers that are attached to cows’ ankles or fitted as necklaces that monitor the movement patterns, duration of walking, and peak fertility phase known as oestrus.
Connecterra employs its software application, ‘Ida,’ to receive data from its sensors, which is analyzed and can assess seven distinct behaviors of every cow in the herd, such as health-related issues and time of heat.
Ida offers farmers the ability to simulate the impact of different factors, such as relocating barns or altering bedding, on the possible yield.
Additionally, Ida creates a model of “best practices” based on successful farming techniques used in other successful and productive farms.
· Moocall, an Irish company in a collaboration with Vodafone telecoms, has developed a system that aims to reduce cow mortality rates during calving by placing a palm-sized birthing sensor on the animal’s tail.
Moocall’s IoT-powered sensors monitors and analyze tail movements that are initiated by labor contractions to measure when a cow is about to give birth and sends an SMS alert to the farmer approximately one hour before the delivery.
In the U.K., over 110,000 calves and 50,000 cows die annually due to birth-related complications, so this technology could significantly improve the welfare of cows and reduce losses for farmers.
· Well Cow, a British company, created Bolus, which is a telemetry system that monitors the dietary and digestive health of a cow through an acidity monitoring device that is inserted into the rumen, the animal’s first stomach.
This technology is used to sample bio-markers in the milk as it is being developed, allowing for early detection of health problems in individual cows.
· Lely Industries N.V. is a Dutch agricultural machine and robot manufacturer based in the Netherlands.
It develops IoT-powered automatic milking robots, which collect data from electronic identification cards and transponders attached to cows.
The automatic milking robots monitor cows to detect when they are primed to produce more milk, alerting the owners who can adjust the cow’s diet to facilitate the lactation process.
· u-blox, a Switzerland-based agritech firm, provides IoT-based solutions for livestock monitoring and tracking using sensors and devices such as ear tags to collect animal data, which is then transmitted to a cloud-based system for analysis.
With such growing interest and heavy investments in smart farming applications, the European smart farming market is growing significantly.
According to BIS Research, the Europe smart farming market was valued at $3.99 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $8.42 billion in 2027, following a CAGR of 16.09% during 2022–2027.
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Challenges Being Faced
Implementing a system that artificially controls and predicts an animal’s birth, life, production, and death could be controversial in a market that is increasingly favoring small-scale organic produce.
Moreover, many European farmers, particularly those in rural areas, may not have access to reliable internet connectivity or the technical expertise needed to set up and maintain IoT devices.
Managing big data can be overwhelming for farmers as they may struggle to identify important insights.
Additionally, as more sensitive information about cows and their health is collected and shared, there are concerns about data privacy and security.
The use of IoT-based solutions or “the Internet of Cows” has the potential to revolutionize dairy production, ensuring a sustainable future for both farmers and the planet.
By providing real-time data on animal health, activity levels, and feed intake, farmers can make data-driven decisions about managing their herds, which can improve efficiency and productivity, and can reduce costs.
With continued investment and innovation in IoT-based solutions for livestock management, we can look forward to a future where agriculture is more sustainable, efficient, and productive than ever before.
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