Technology has allowed agriculture to change over the last 100 years. With the turn of modern agriculture happening in as tractors became more widely used, modern agriculture has improved the quality of life of not only the general public that consumes the food, but also the farmers that grow our food. With technology has come more efficient practices of agriculture and while some of the initial improvements helped pave the way for the modern agriculture of today, I do not believe that reverting all modern agriculture back to those practices is the way to sustainable agriculture. In short the changes that have happened in modern agriculture have been driven by the social needs and demands of the consumers, and turning the clock back so to speak will not feed the growing population.
While there are several new technologies that are improving the sustainability of agriculture, I have chosen to focus on one a week. The technology that I see having a large impact in the future in the dairy and beef industries is a new twist on monitoring systems. DVM Systems out of Greeley is a monitoring system that relies on a rumen bolus to collect and transmit the internal temperature of cow. The software will take the raw data that is transmitted by the bolus and calculate patterns in the temperature of each individual cow.
Once a base line is developed for each individual cow, that software then starts looking for deviations from the base line. The DVM System has 2 modules that are launched and 1 module that is still going through the final stages of research. The two modules that are released are the Early Illness Detection and the Early Calving Detection. The module that is still in research is the Ovulation Prediction.
The Early Illness Module helps identify pre-clinical illnesses in the cows. By identifying the illness before showing clinical signs, it often results in less drugs and recovery time for the animal. The module can often detect the illness 2-3 days before the clinical signs would be prevalent. Not only does the animal recover faster and often with less meds and drugs, it also allows the farmer/manager/employee to be more efficient in their time. It should also be mentioned that with the early detection of an illness, there is a decreased mortality rate associated with illnesses that went undetected for too long.
The Early Calving Detection Module uses a distinct pattern in core body temperature changes that happen just prior to a cow calving to alert the farmer/manager/employee that the cow is about to calf. The alerts can be set for 24 hours or 12 hours or both. I see this being very useful for those medium sized dairies and/or beef operations. The operations that do not have a dedicated employee in the maternity area. The system will alert the farmer/manager/employee of the cow that is about to calf, allowing the cow to be moved to an individual pen for calving. This also helps to lower dystocia incidences by knowing when a cow has been in labor for too long and needs assistance in the birthing process.
Once the Ovulation Prediction Module is released there will be benefits to it as well. It will help to reduce the costs of semen and labor in breeding animals that are not in estrus (heat). The module will help the farmer/manager/employee be more efficient with their time in the breeding pens.
One of the most interesting benefits that I see to the DVM System is that it will help improve the efficiency of the Fresh Cow Checks on larger dairies. It will be much easier for the individuals that are doing the Fresh Cow checks to know before heading into the pen that this list of cows have an elevated temperature. They will be able to go to those individual animals an do a physical exam to determine why the animals has an elevated temperature.
I do not see this technology taking the place of people actually caring for their animals. I do see this as being a way to be more efficient and therefore more sustainable in agriculture.
for more information about the DVM Systems please visit their website dvmsystems.com