The adoption of technology in the European dairy farming sector lags behind compared to other farming sub-sectors: less than 20% of all dairy farmers use fertility management tools and less than 10% use feed and health monitoring systems. Considering that the number of dairy cows in the EU stood at 22.9 million in 2018, the potential is huge. As a response, this use case aims to encourage a technology uptake in dairy farming by combining advanced big data analysis with machine learning technologies. This will allow farmers to better understand their animals, detect issues at an early stage and get suggestions on potential solutions, thus increasing the farm’s productivity.
Interpreting animal behaviour
Selecting the right hardware plays a crucial role in understanding cows’ behaviours. Over the course of the project, the Use Case Coordinator Niels Molenaar, and his team developed Ida.
Their partner in this project ZLTO came in with two important assets: knowledge and a network of farmers who embrace innovation. Their neck-mounted device helps farmers to identify issues on the dairy farm and gives them recommendations on how to tackle them. By connecting Ida to the entire value chain, the solution supports end-users in transitioning to a more sustainable way of farming. Through Artificial Intelligence, raw sensor data are turned into actionable insights for the benefit of people, companies, and the natural habitats in which they operate. For the team, AI is a formidable tool to support the human endeavour of addressing the future of our planet.
+4% up to +6%
-3% up to -21%
Calving intervals (days)
As dairy farms are becoming larger, it is becoming increasingly challenging for farmers to keep animal health and productivity at the highest level. By leveraging technology and innovation they get the decision-making support while maintaining a healthy herd. The team’s philosophy is that providing actionable insights is preferred over generating lots of data. For the researchers at Connecterra, innovation is the key to getting those insights by analysing already existing data in new ways. Their decision support system (DSS) helps to understand crucial parameters concerning fertility and animal health. And the results speak for themselves: 20-30% increase in efficiency and a reduction of over 50% in antibiotic use. Such performance or treatment data becomes increasingly important for animal feed, health, and breeding companies. The use case thus developed an enterprise version of Ida to look at data from a broad food value chain perspective.
Importance of heat detection
Summer temperatures in parts of Europe went up to 4°C higher than usually in 2019. Hence, it comes as no surprise that heat stress has come to the fore as a major health concern for dairy farmers.
By responding to that, the team made necessity a virtue. They developed a progressive feature called “cow ranking” which assists the farmer in beating the often deadly effects of heat stress. Modern dairy breeds like the Holstein Friesian have a tolerance to cold weather conditions since they are widespread mainly in Northern Europe. This makes them very susceptible to heat stress, which can already occur if temperatures rise above 22°C, especially when accompanied by high humidity. Elevated temperature and humidity negatively affect feed intake, resulting in poor rumination, milk yield and fertility.
Antibiotics use to cure illness
Another risk that farmers run due to sweltering temperatures is herd fatality, low efficiency and ultimately reduced profit. This is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with. An innovative way to do that is the ever-evolving artificial intelligence. The aforementioned “cow ranking” feature helps with the early detection of heat stress by correlating herd parameters with each individual cow’s milk yield as well as eating and rumination behaviour. Digitalising a dairy farm supports the decision-making to improve herd efficiency, fertility, milk yield and heat detection. But, most importantly, it reduces the stress level of farmers and their animals. Strengthening this partnership is what the team strives for and the essence of precision livestock farming in general.
Achievements, products & services
Neck-mounted sensors to allow better understanding of animals and detecting issues at an early stage
Behaviour evaluation through tracking of movements in 3 dimensions and subsequent analysis of data by algorithm to evaluate behaviour
Centralised decision-support system
Single one API with suggestions on potential solutions to increase the farm’s productivity