Sensor technology and data monitoring in dairy cows

Sensors that can measure physiological, behavioral and production indicators in dairy cows (milk yield, temperature, animal’s activity, etc.) may assist farmers to improve animal health and welfare and identify diseased cows earlier.

Currently there are different sensors available on the market, such as sensor systems for mastitis detection (e.g. electrical conductivity), oestrus detection for dairy cows, oestrus detection for youngstock, and other sensor systems (e.g. weighing platform, rumination time sensor, temperature sensor, milk temperature sensor, etc.).

These technologies and their adoption provide benefit to farmers by frequently monitoring dairy cattle without disturbing natural behavioral expression. The implementation of these tools via e.g. computer-controlled programs can become valuable instruments for improving detection rates, gaining insights into the fertility level of the herd, improving profitability of the farm, and reducing labor.

For example, clinical mastitis can be predicted by changes in the electrical conductivity of foremilk, enabling early treatment and significantly limiting the severity of the disease. In many cases, it may also prevent the appearance of any visible signs of infection.

On the other hand, a monitoring system based on feeding time of the individual cow can identify changes in feeding activity. It is expected that the farmer’s inspection of dairy cows that change their average feeding time in combination with other monitoring systems, will lead to earlier detection of mastitis and oestrus. Early detection and veterinary treatment of mastitis and oestrus is expected to be beneficial for both cow welfare and farm profitability.