A retrospective of the recent past
In recent years, automatic heat detection via activity and rumination sensors has become an established technique. These have proven to be very reliable systems, which help the farmer in his daily work with his animals. In this context, the question arises whether the same sensors could also be used for early detection of diseases.
The above-mentioned systems usually work autonomously and inform the farmer that individual cows may be in heat. In the time around the heat, the cow’s activity often increases, whereas the rumination activity strongly decreases during the same time. The sensors make use of this fact in order to identify animals that are currently in heat.
In the recent past, more and more studies have been performed on the issue of early detection of diseases. These studies were aimed at finding out whether the above-mentioned sensors are also suitable for automatic health monitoring and early detection of diseases.
Initial results reveal that sensors can capture a cow’s changing behavior patterns. Thus, some diseases can be detected earlier with the help of these parameters than through purely visual observation. Early detection of a disease depends on many factors. For some types of diseases, the movement and rumination activity decreases more strongly than in the case of others.
According to the studies performed by researchers, diseases that entail a strong change in the behavior of a dairy cow can be detected up to 3 days before the first clinical symptoms are visible externally. This enables the farmer to treat his animals early and in a focused manner when a disease has been diagnosed, which will save costs and increase the animals’ well-being.
Currently the problem lies in making the analysis so sensitive that it can detect unambiguously whether there is a disease or not. The challenge is to make the alert lists that the farmer gets shorter. This can be archived with fewer animals wrongly identified as being sick.
The use of algorithms allows finding more precise diagnoses and detecting diseases early on. These algorithms continually re-adjust to the behavior of individual animals, while taking into account the behavior of the entire herd.
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"InnoCow is funded unter the project name BlauCow within the EXIST program by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy and the European Social Fund."