'Fitness tracker for cows' monitors livestock movements

Monday, 10 December, 2018

'Fitness tracker for cows' monitors livestock movements

CSIRO has partnered with agtech start-up Ceres Tag in the creation of a new type of activity tracker to help farmers to keep track of where their livestock are and what they are doing.

The new technology, which takes the form of a smart ear tag, produces similar data to that delivered by consumer smart watches. With development co-funded by MLA Donor Company, the aim of the device is to save farmers time and money compared to the costs of manually tracking their herds using vehicles or aircraft.

Farmers can use the device to track where their herds graze, if an animal has escaped or been stolen, and even movements which could indicate an animal is giving birth or sick. Using onboard accelerometers, the tag can send out alerts for unusual activity patterns which could be triggered by events like theft and other disturbances of the herd.

“Ceres Tag gives greater transparency over grazing management, allowing farmers to locate and monitor their animals to reduce risk and operating costs, improve efficiency and assist with traceability,” said Ceres Tag CEO David Smith.

“The tag is GPS-enabled, allowing farmers to track the location of individual animals remotely via Internet of Things (IoT) capability.”

Designed for improved retention and to last throughout the life of the animal in Australia’s often harsh conditions, the smart ear tag was successfully trialled on 100 cattle at CSIRO’s Lansdown Research Station near Townsville, Queensland, last month. CSIRO and Ceres Tag plan to release further iterations in future, drawing on CSIRO’s deep livestock knowledge and the sensing and data analytics expertise of its technology arm, Data61.

“Aussie farmers need every bit of help they can get right now so we are pleased it has taken less than a year for this technology to move from the research phase into development for a real-world trial on cattle,” said Dr Ed Charmley, Group Leader at CSIRO.

“Our focus for future iterations is to create a smaller and lighter tag, as well as added functionality such as a temperature sensor, which could alert farmers to illnesses at an earlier stage.”

The partners aspire for the product to be the world’s first smart ear tag accredited for provenance to international traceability standards, including Australia’s National Livestock Identification System (NLIS).

Image caption: The CSIRO Ceres ear tag in action.

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