Monitoring Dairy Cattle Behavior with AgResearch
AgResearch, one of New Zealand’s largest Crown Research Institutes (CRI’s), and DairyNZ, the industry organization representing New Zealand’s dairy farmers, are creating smart and sustainable science and technology projects to increase the value of New Zealand’s largest export, agriculture, whilst also enhancing the environment and optimizing land use.
Understanding Cattle Behavior
Dairy cattle are an important and prominent component of New Zealand agriculture, therefore finding ways to improve and optimize their production and welfare is critical.
In an ongoing study, AgResearch and DairyNZ are studying cattle behaviors and movements to improve the nutrition, health, and welfare of livestock for efficient and sustainable production.
A cow’s typical day is comprised of grazing, ruminating, and lying time, but the cow also needs to spend time walking to the milking shed, and waiting to be milked. The longer a cow is away from the paddock for milking, the less time she has to do behaviors like grazing and lying down – this is important, as these behaviors impact milk production.
To better understand the relationship between cattle behaviors and movements and production, AgResearch and DairyNZ required a flexible and scalable battery-powered GPS tracking device to track more than just where a cow spends her day, but how.
Monitoring Cattle Behavior and Movement with The Oyster2
With industry-leading battery life, a high-precision GPS/GLONASS positioning system, built-in battery-life management, and a 3-Axis accelerometer, AgResearch and DairyNZ are currently monitoring approximately 90 cattle using the Oyster2.
The Oyster2 is comfortably secured to cattle using a custom-designed collar, and ultra-rugged nylon glass housing ensures the device can withstand water, dirt, bumps, and abrasions while deployed.
The Oyster2’s 3-Axis Accelerometer enables smart movement-based tracking. When the cow is resting, the device enters “sleep mode,” to conserve battery life. When the cow travels a preconfigured distance, a trip alert is triggered and the Oyster2 begins reporting to the web platform more frequently.
When the Oyster2 is used on cows in the paddock, it triggers an alert when the cow moves over 100 meters, indicating she is walking to the milking shed or feed pad and is no longer resting.
Accelerometer settings are configured through our Device Management Platform, OEM Server, and are quickly applied to all devices so reporting is consistent across cattle. Other tracking parameters can also be controlled remotely, so settings can be updated at any time while the devices are still out in the field.
Built-in battery-life monitoring and low-battery alerts ensure the Oyster2’s off-the-shelf batteries are changed in a timely manner, and behavioral data is not missed.
In addition to the Oyster2, AgResearch and DairyNZ are also using cattle ear tags to determine for how long cows are grazing and ruminating during the day. With this combination of technologies, the researchers are able to gain more insight into how cows are spending their day on the farm.
Research is ongoing, with AgResearch and DairyNZ aiming to deploy more devices on cattle across farms in New Zealand to identify differences in how cows spend their day depending on-farm practices. The Oyster2 offers an opportunity for researchers to determine how a cow’s time away from the paddock impacts her milk production and welfare.