6 cutting-edge gadgets from the Dairy-Tech event

Some of the most innovative and cost-saving dairy and livestock gadgets were on show at the RABDF (Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers) Dairy-Tech event on 7 February 2019.

We’ve picked out some of the best high-tech gadgets from the event to help farmers improve their dairy production.

See also: Milk margins squeezed by high feed rate and cost

1. Glycol chiller uses milk to heat sheds

The glycol chiller system, from Xchanger, saves energy by reducing the need to chill milk and uses heat extracted from the milk to heat water and buildings.

The first heat exchanger takes heat from milk (34-38C) and transfers the heat energy to the glycol, heating the glycol to about 30C.  

Warm glycol is passed to a second heat exchanger containing a refrigerant liquid, which is heated to 80C by the glycol.

The now cool glycol passes back to the first heat exchanger to cool more milk and the hot refrigerant can then be used as a heating source.   

Cost: A basic system on a 200-cow herd doing 10,000 litres per lactation will cost £15,000 and save about 8,500 litres of heating oil annually.

Xchanger milk chiller © Tim Scrivener

2. Facial recognition brings 24/7 cow monitoring

A herd management system using cameras to track cows via facial recognition is set to hit the UK market early next year.

Cainthus, from Cargill, will monitor feeding and drinking behaviour and provide cow management alerts.

A growing data set from 30,000 US cows and two all-year-round calving farms in Ireland is developing algorithms to add monitoring of body condition score, feed management, aggressive eating, sifting and sorting, and feed time consistency into the analysis this year. 

A setup with 20 cameras per shed collects 864,000 data points per animal daily at 10 images per second on each camera.

Individual cows are identified and raw data is sent to an on-site server, stating what activity each cow did for a specific length of time.

Cost: No cost information is available yet. Trial work is ongoing.

A cow shed with dome cameras mounted above the pens

Cameras constantly monitor each cow’s activity

3. Breedr app finds sires that lift calf value by 50%

A livestock management app has found that dairy-cross beef calves can be worth 50% more at slaughter from sires chosen on both meat and milk yield.

The Breedr app combines weight-gain data and carcass information with statutory sheep or cattle records, as well as medicine book information.  

In addition to being a general herd and flock management tool, Breedr links weight and carcass information imported into the system to show the impact bulls and rams are having on farm.

The system can have data entered manually, through CSV files or via electronic weigh-head systems to report animal performance back to farmers.

Charts and colour-coding display the best and worst performing progeny and can be used to predict optimal marketing periods by showing growth projections.

Cost: £240/year for premium package

The Breedr herd management app © Tim Scrivener

4. Eurofins dry matter analyser

Eurofins has launched a pocket-sized smart sensor to allow farmers and feed advisers to analyse the dry matter of forage in less than a minute on-farm.

They claim the tool will revolutionise the way farmers feed cows by allowing them to track changes in dry matter in real-time and fine-tune rations accordingly.

Developed alongside Consumer Physics, SCiO is a NIR (near infrared) spectrometer that uses algorithms to compare maize and grass silage against a database of 1,000 samples within a 2-3% margin of error, Eurofins says.

The database will grow as more forages are analysed over the course of this year.

It doesn’t replace lab testing – silages should still be sent away for complete analysis – but it does offer an alternative solution to more time-consuming microwave dry matter testing of forages.

Cost: The reader costs £400 and while the app is free to download, there is an annual subscription of £900. Fees vary for groups of nutritionists.

The NIR handheld DM meter and phone app © Tim Scrivener

5. Ear tags measure health and heats

Animal health company Zoetis has launched a new ear tag that records the movement of a cow’s ear to determine their health and heat status.

Smartbow alerts farmers in real time with data transferred to a PC, tablet or smartphone when individual cow activity changes and records a range of data, including:

  • Health
  • Heat
  • Feeding behaviour and rumination  
  • Cow location 
  • Lying times
  • Shed location real-time

Cost: A 200-cow set up costs about £142 a cow plus £7 a cow annual service fee. Tags are reusable and batteries can be replaced for less than £2 each.

Smartbow eartage

6. Cooling mats improve welfare and create renewable energy

Rubber waterbeds fitted with heat exchanger technology are improving cow performance and cutting energy bills on farms by turning animals’ heat stress into heat energy.

Trials have found the AquaClim system has increased lying times by 15-20% and increased rumination times, according to manufacturer Bioret Agri.

Cost: £306/mat. Does not include price of ground-source pump.

An AquaClim heat exchanger waterbed for cows © Tim Scrivener