The growth in wirelessly enabled sensor network technologies has enabled the low cost deployment of sensor platforms with applications in a range of sectors and communities. In the agricultural domain such sensors have been the foundation for the creation of decision support tools that enhance farm operational efficiency. This Research Reflection illustrates how these advances are assisting dairy farmers to optimise performance and illustrates where emerging sensor technology can offer additional benefits. One of the early applications for sensor technology at an individual animal level was the accurate identification of cattle entering into heat (oestrus) to increase the rate of successful pregnancies and thus optimise milk yield per animal. This was achieved through the use of activity monitoring collars and leg tags. Additional information relating to the behaviour of the cattle, namely the time spent eating and ruminating, was subsequently derived from collars giving further insights of economic value into the wellbeing of the animal, thus an enhanced range of welfare related services have been provisioned. The integration of the information from neck-mounted collars with the compositional analysis data of milk measured at a robotic milking station facilitates the early diagnosis of specific illnesses such as mastitis. The combination of different data streams also serves to eliminate the generation of false alarms, improving the decision making capability. The principle of integrating more data streams from deployed on-farm systems, for example, with feed composition data measured at the point of delivery using instrumented feeding wagons, supports the optimisation of feeding strategies and identification of the most productive animals. Optimised feeding strategies reduce operational costs and minimise waste whilst ensuring high welfare standards. These IoT-inspired solutions, made possible through Internet-enabled cloud data exchange, have the potential to make a major impact within farming practices. This paper gives illustrative examples and considers where new sensor technology from the automotive industry may also have a role.
Michie, C., Andonovic, I., Davison, C., Hamilton, A., Tachtatzis, C., Jonsson, N., Duthie, C-A., Bowen, J. M., & Gilroy, M. (2020). The Internet of Things enhancing animal welfare and farm operational efficiency. Journal of Dairy Research, 87(S1), 20-27. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022029920000680