Connected Cows Moo-ve Into The Wearable Age

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Smart cowbell collars wearable allow farmers to track their herds

We’ve all heard how wearable technology devices are becoming more fashionable in order to attract new customers, but now it seems even animals want to get in on the act.

A new wearable tracking collar is enabling farmers to locate exactly where their dairy cattle are, helping better manage grazing patterns and milk yields.

Packing in an array of sensors, including GPS and movement detectotrs, the collars, created by Cambridge Industrial Design (CID) and commissioned by Irish company True North Technologies, sends real-time data back to the farmers to enable more efficient ways of monitoring their cattle.

Cow time

smart cowbellThe collar tracks the cow’s every movement, and is able to match this to particular behaviour, such as grazing, socialising or simply lying down, chewing the cud.

This information is then sent in real-time through mobile GSM networks to a central hub, where it is analysed in conjunction with other data such as milk yields and grass length, overseen by another CID measuring device called the Grass Hopper.

This allows farmers to instantly see where the longest, lushest grass is, and then ensure that cows are grazing in the best area by creating location-based virtual electric fences using the cow bell collars, which confine them to specific pastures. These geo-fences can be easily and remotely changed dependent on grazing conditions, increasing efficiency as they remove the time and manpower needed to manually put up and take down physical electric fences.

The collars form part of a pan-European project that also involves Teagasc (the Irish government agricultural research agency), Institute d’Laval in France and Agroscope, Switzerland. It is now in the trial phase in Ireland and results will be published when the project concludes, which is expected to be in June 2016.

“Wearables, such as the Apple Watch, may be stealing the headlines, but tracking the behaviour of cows is equally vital to farmers who want to best manage their grazing,” said Tim Evans, design director at Cambridge Industrial Design.

“In creating this sensor we took our inspiration from the traditional alpine cow bell, using a rounded shape to minimise the size and maximise strength. This ensures it is rugged enough to cope with being bashed against fences and feeding troughs, and simple enough for farmers to remove for cleaning and recharging. The result mooves wearable technology forward – and the cows think it is udderly brilliant.”

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