Everyone knows information technology holds great promise as an enabling technology in various fields. Well, mobile phones and text messaging may soon take on a whole new meaning for cattle farmers. Let’s just say farmers may soon start getting text messages from the cows in their herds, writes Gerry le Roux of Sciencelens.
According to a recent New York Times article, researchers in Switzerland are in the final testing stages of a device that implants sensors in cows to alert farmers when the cows are in heat. The electronic heat detector, which is implanted into the genitals, measures the cow’s body heat. This gets transmitted to a device around the cow’s neck which determines her motion activity. The results from the two measurements are combined using specially calibrated algorithms, with the correct combination of increased body heat and increased restlessness being an indicator that the cow is in heat. When this happens, an SMS is sent to the farmer’s phone, alerting him to the fact that the cow is sexually active.
The device, which is expected to be brought to market in Switzerland in early 2013, is the brainchild of several academic researchers at a technical college near the Swiss capital Bern. It is claimed that the device can play an important role in breeding, particularly in the dairy industry, since dairy cows, which are placed under ever increasing stress to produce more milk, are showing less and less signs of heat. This makes it difficult for farmers to use visual inspection to know when to introduce the bull, or artificial insemination. The new system is claimed to have a recognition rate of about 90 percent.
The main drawback of the device, at least initially, will be cost, which is expected to be about US$1,400 per unit and some farmers are skeptical whether it will be worth the investment.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on this technology, to see to what extent it will be accepted in the industry and how this will affect the cost of the units.