Daily Inspiration: Agriculture and Technology – “The fact that we have ‘fitbits for cows’ should inspire you to think bigger about your future!”


“The fact that we have ‘fitbits for cows’ should inspire you to think bigger about your future!” – Futurist Jim Carroll

We live in the era of the ‘connected cow’ – that fact alone should boggle your mind about our future.  I was thinking about this two days ago when I visited the trade show portion of the massive agricultural event that I was speaking at!

This short article tells you what you need to know.

More than half of Americans now track their daily activities with some kind of wearable device in an effort to stay healthy. These include the Apple Watch, Garmin Vivo series, Samsung Fit and Fitbits. Researchers at Tarleton State University’s Southwest Regional Dairy Center in Stephenville say that digitally tracking dairy cows’ eating, sleeping and other movements helps them take better care of the herd for milk three times each day.

Dr. Barbara Jones, director of the largest university dairy operation in the Southwest, has equipped each cow with two Fitbits. “They help us monitor health and to keep them connected. And that matters to us because we truly do care about cows, as all producers do,” she said in a news release from Texas A&M University.

Fitbits for Cows
30 October 2019, Meridian Tribune

With that in mind, the fact of the matter is that right now I’m on a bit of an agricultural and farming keynote roll!  In a few weeks, I’ll be the opening keynote speaker for CattleCon 2024 in Orlando, speaking to a few thousand cattle ranchers and farmers about their industry. This comes on the heels of my keynote just a few days ago for a major Canadian agricultural conference about the role of AI in farming; that follows my talk last fall for the Western Growers Association – they represent farmers from California, Nevada, and Arizona – on the same topic. This is not a new industry for me these events come on the heels of literally dozens of keynotes in the sector over the years on future agricultural and farming trends. The fact is, over the years, I’ve done keynotes for most major agricultural associations and major agricultural companies with trends within the industry. (Hit https://agriculture.jimcarroll.com, https://ai-agriculture.jimcarroll, and https://jimcarroll.com/category/agriculture/ for more insight.)

Connected cows? I will often speak on stage about the fact that we now have what some refer to as ‘fitbits for cows’ – for lack of a better term. I’ve even been known to go out roaming around in order to find a good spot to film a short clip about the trend.

My keynote at CattleCon 2024 is not my first for the cattle and beef industry; I’ve previously done talks for several hundred cattle ranchers in Lubbock, Texas, Phoenix, and Denver.

The industry, as are all industries, is evolving quickly with the emergence of new ideas, technologies, concepts, methodologies, and innovation opportunities. My keynote description summarizes what I will take on.

Join us for a forward-thinking session with Jim Carroll, a renowned Futurist, Author, and Innovation Expert. This session promises to empower you with the knowledge and foresight needed to embrace the ever-changing agricultural landscape, shedding light on the trends and technologies that are shaping the future of the cattle industry. Jim’s thought-provoking insights and engaging storytelling will inspire you to think differently and reimagine the possibilities that lie ahead. Whether you are a rancher, a technology enthusiast, or anyone passionate about the future of agriculture, this session is your gateway to knowledge, innovation, and success. Plan to attend this motivating session with the BQA Celebration of Excellence. The BQA Awards recognize the best of the beef industry with the winners will leaving you inspired, motivated and proud to be a part of our great industry.

Back to the idea of the ‘connected cow.’ They aren’t really ‘fitbits’ but are known as rumination collars, and they provide the rancher and farmer with a tremendous amount of real-time insight. What are they used for? For one, health monitoring, where they are tracking vital signs like heart rate and temperature, which can help identify early signs of illness or distress. And, like fitbits, they can track activity levels, indicating if there are signs of lethargy that could signify a health issue for a particular animal. They are also very useful for breeding purposes, identifying the optimal time for breeding by monitoring signs of estrus (heat), thus improving breeding efficiency. There’s also nutrition management, useful for monitoring breeding patterns – an important level of insight for overall herd management.

In my favorite application, they can be used for ‘calving alerts,’ sending an update when a cow is about to give birth. One of my favorite stories that I will often tell on stage for any industry involves the young rancher who tells me that he and his wife now get to sleep much better than years before. That’s because, rather than being out in the field in the cold and the wind and the muck in the rain monitoring the status of an animal, they will now simply get a text message alerting them to the imminency of a birth.

The fact is, if there are fitbits for humans, why not for cows?

People have been wearing Fitbits and other health monitoring devices for years, and now it’s the next big thing for our national dairy herd.

Cow wearables, such as ear sensors and collars, are increasingly being used on New Zealand dairy farms to help monitor and manage animal performance, health and fertility.

Manawatu dairy farmer Jared Whittfield has been using CowManager’s ear sensor technology since the start of May to monitor his herd. Although the technology looks like a standard ear tag seen on every dairy cow across the country, it delivers key insights to farmers 24/7 to bring them one step closer to their cows.

One of the main benefits of these ear tags is early detection of problems,” he says. “You receive a health alert when a cow isn’t her usual self, and from there you can quickly diagnose the problem. It’s great from a herd productivity perspective because it means you’re picking up issues much earlier, or even identifying issues that might never have been picked up.”

Whittfield, who milks 1000 cows on his 250ha farm in Moutoa in the Manawatu region, says it was easier to know each cow when herds were smaller.

When you’re milking 50 cows, it’s not hard to see if one is having a bad day, but when you have 1000, that’s a very different task. With cow wearable devices, you get that same level of connection to your cows again.

“Not only can you monitor individual cows, but you can also get a sense of how your herd is performing overall by looking at cows at different ages and stages of lactation and identifying whether there are any trends.

Herd improvement and agritech co-op LIC has recently released a new development in its cloud-based herd management system, MINDA (via its app), to help Kiwi farmers unlock more value from cow wearable devices and further support the “connected cow” future of the New Zealand dairy industry.

The new application will enable valuable data captured from cow wearable devices to join the rest of the animal’s records in MINDA to provide farmers with a one-stop-shop for their animal data.

Before the application was available, Whittfield was having to do a daily transfer of data. “The fact that these tags are now able to link up with MINDA means there’s no double handling of data, which saves time on farm and ensures that you have access to all the data you need in one centralised place.

Farm technology: Fitbits for cows
13 January 2022, Te Puke Times

In my view, the fact that we now live in the era of the ‘connected cow’ tells you everything you need to know about your future.

We are seeing the arrival of fascinating new ideas, fascinating solutions to complex problems, and accelerating a world of pervasive insight. All around you, there are people, companies, and industries who are thinking big and bold about tomorrow, and who are developing the concepts that take us into a fascinating new future.

Are you thinking the same way?




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