Cattle farming the smart way …of connected cows and agritechnology


‘SMART farming’ is the way to go! This is according to a recently launched manifesto of one of the contestants in the forthcoming election on July 30 2018.
Smart farming is, to all intents and purposes, the ability of a computer or robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.
It includes learning, reasoning and self-correction. It generates insights from data more quickly and accurately than humanly possible and is able to act automatically on that insight.
Smart farming allows farmers who are under pressure to produce more with less, using precision agriculture, digital technologies and high-value nutrient sources.
A data solution could set up a wider business model and extract additional value, for example by using data for supply chain efficiency or food traceability to enable smart farmers to improve on-farm profitability.
There are various technologies (ICT), that provide access to information through telecommunication, including the internet, wireless networks, mobile phones and other communication media.
ICT systems and mechanisms available to farmers where devices communicate and co-operate with each other and with humans in real-time, thereby enabling decentralised and automated decision-making adjustments to reduce waste.
Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) and Internet of Things (IoT) is a mechanism controlled or monitored by computer-based algorithms. The network of connected CPS, people and devices creates the IoT.
Cloud Computing is using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage and process data, rather than using local servers or personal computers.
The process of collecting, organising, and analysing this data to discover patterns, trends, correlations, consumer preferences and other information is the Big Data Analytics (BDA).
A Platform is a business model that creates value by facilitating exchange between two or more interdependent groups, usually consumers and producers. Examples are facebook and Uber.
Such platforms also offer opportunities for the meat livestock sector, for example e-sourcing platforms for transport along the supply chain, but also for a more efficient distribution of manure from local animal to local crop farmers.
With the rapid development of the internet of things (IoT) technology has ushered in an era when even the world’s largest agricultural companies are talking about the ‘connected cow’.
Data-based operating models approach goes beyond the electronic reproduction of processes by really leveraging new technologies, such as big data, predictive analytics and IoT; based on pattern recognition, resilient networks and self-organisation.
Investment in precision ‘agtech’ systems reached US$3,2bn globally in 2016 (including US$363m in farm management and sensor technology).
A California-based crowdfunding platform was set to grow further as dairy farms become a test bed for the wider IoT strategy of big technology companies.
Digitisation offers great potential in creating real-time transparency along the supply chains and across company borders, due to the increased amount and accuracy of available data, thereby creating a competitive advantage.
Digitisation can help facilitate changes in demand patterns, for example, by using ICT or crowd-sourcing platforms to find innovative ways of communicating the benefits of dietary changes.
Smart livestock farming aims to achieve more productive, efficient, and sustainable farm operations based on the effective use of digital technologies.
The largest potential lies in individual animal monitoring and analysis, which is referred to as precision livestock farming (PLF).
In PLF, tools and sensors are used to continuously and automatically monitor key performance indicators of livestock in the areas of animal health, productivity and environmental load.
Monitoring animals through digital devices like wearables are gaining ground in cattle monitoring, enabling real-time information on individual cows in order to improve health, lactation or reproduction.
Dairy herds are being connected to sensors and mobile phones by placing sensors on various parts of cows’ bodies to monitor health and increase productivity.
A newly developed feed additive improves milk quality through milk solids. A data solution could track these increases while measuring other real-time information for individual cows to improve health, lactation and/or reproduction.
Here are some examples:
l A Swiss company has developed a device that can detect when a cow is fertile and then sends out a text message to inform the farmer. A sensor is implanted in the cow’s genitals to measure body heat and transmit the results to another sensor on the animal’s collar that tracks body motion. The collar also features a SIM card so the farmer can pay to receive SMS alerts when the cow is ready for reproduction.
l A Dutch company has developed gadgets that are attached to one of the cow’s ankles and can tell the farmer whether the animal is walking too little or too much; a key indication of an animal’s health and whether it is in oestrus (in a peak fertility phase).
The devices are now a common sight on farms, and the market for them has become crowded.
Farmers are placing sensors on various parts of cows’ bodies — including the tail, neck, hooves and stomach — to help increase the productivity of their herds.
l Scientists at the University of Sydney Centre for Field Robotics in Australian have developed a robot which is designed to help cattle breeders in the Australian outback.
According to the results of a pilot test on a farm, the robot is able to herd cattle independently, clear weeds and pull heavy loads.
The robot will also be developed to be able to check the health of cattle by using sensors to analyse body temperature and movement.
l An Irish company that is working with the IoT team at Vodafone, the telecoms group, says it aims to reduce mortality rates in cows by up to 80 percent by placing a palm-sized sensor on the animal’s tail.
l In the UK, more than 110 000 calves and some 50 000 cows die every year because of birth-related complications.
The system can alert farmers how long a cow has been calving by monitoring tail movements, alerting the owner to potential problems.
Similar initiatives include a telemetry system that monitors the dietary health and temperature of a cow from within the rumen, the animal’s first stomach, to sample bio-markers in the milk as it is being developed.
l A company based in Dresden, Germany, has developed software which enables farmers to work out the right food rations for their businesses.
Several feeding goals are taken into account, including cost savings and animal health.
Dr. Tony Monda holds a PhD. in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and post-colonial heritage studies. He is a writer, lecturer, musician, art critic, practicing artist and corporate image consultant. He is also a specialist art consultant, post-colonial ccholar, Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst and researcher. E-mail:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here