As farming technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, we are now seeing an ever growing range of apps designed to make life easier and more convenient, making the smart phone one of the most important pieces of kit in a farmer’s arsenal. Alex Heath rounds up some of the latest phone-based applications and connective kit.
Imported by Bracknell-based Miracle Tech, Agroninja’s Beefie is a Hungarian-developed app that allows for a weight assessment for beef and dairy cattle, with a claimed 99 per cent accuracy, depending on breed.
Using the phone’s camera to visualise the animal, a range finder sourced from Leica connects via Bluetooth to calibrate the system and animal size. A series of side profile photos are taken, before the operator selects the most representative, followed by the overlaying and adjusting of a silhouette over the top of the photo.
A virtual tape measure is placed and adjusted top and bottom of the chest of the animal, before selecting breed and condition score. It then calculates a weight.
Developed in Europe, European breed types are used and include Aberdeen Angus, Charolais, Limousin, Blonde D’aquitaine and Holstien Friesian. The process takes approximately 40 second per animal, and is said to reduce the need for handling.
Three packages are available: Beefie Lite, with limited functionality of two breed types and no storage of data, but a lifetime subscription; the standard version with data storage; and Beefie Plus, which also allows for withers height measurement.
Initial purchase cost is £247, £354 and £421 respectively, with annual subscriptions for the standard and plus versions of £179 and £224 each. Currently, the system is only available to use with Android devices.
Designed as an aid to help when AI’ing, Eye Breed from French company AXCE uses a smart phone’s WiFi to connect to the app.
Negating the need for rectal palpation, the system comprises of an insemination device through which the AI gun and specially designed sheaths run through. Once inserted into the vagina, a camera at the end of the device allows the device to be lined up to the cervix, with the imaged streamed to the phone, which is secured around the neck of the operative.
When lined up, a hip mounted vacuum pump clamps the cervix onto the end of the device, immobilising the first ring, allowing easier passage via subtle external movements through the subsequent rings.
Once the uterine body has been reached, the semen can be deposited, as normal. The company claims 90 per cent of cervixes can be passed with the device, without rectal palpation. Four hours of training is needed to familiarise the operator with the device, which costs in the region of £2,110 (€2,500).
The farm management app Herdwatch has been rebuilt to include more functionality and easier logging of data for livestock and arable farms.
Herdwatch NG (next generation) is the sixth version of the app, but this time has a new user interface, with streamlined inputting of data for weight recording grassland product application and medicines for example.
The company has so far got 11,500 users across the UK and Ireland, with 1.4 million animals registered in the app, which connects directly to the BCMS database, for quick transfer of animal details, including movements and births. Earlier this year the millionth calf was also birth notified through the app.
Spray, medicine and husbandry application data inputted into the app can be turned into farm and quality assurance compliant paperwork. The app is free to download and compatible with Android and iOS devices. The pro version which allows greater functionality costs from £79, depending on the type of farm.
IMV’s Alpha Vision is a complete kit that can be used for inspection and artificial insemination. The kit comes complete with a smart phone, which is connected via a cable to the insemination gun. This can be attached to the sleeve or around the neck. A camera on the end allows the inseminator to line up the cervix, with out having to perform a rectal palpation.
Because it is less invasive than traditional techniques, the manufacturer says cows are much more relaxed, and thus penetration of the cervix is easier. The camera can also be used to diagnose metritis, uterine involution, pus and lesions and treat if any signs are seen. Pictures can be saved for consultation with a vet.
The set uses Kombicolor semen applicators, which negate the need for fiddly polo rings securing the sheath, says the manufacturer. Because the sheath is contained inside the camera tube until the cervix is reached, the risk of uterine infection is reduced as the sheath will not have touched the vaginal wall.
The company says the system which costs £2,650 should pay for itself in 13 months on a 120 cow herd, as a result of higher conception rates.
A hand-held device for managing calf health has been updated by Urban. Able to measure and record various parameters of calf health, VitalCalf recognises a calf via an electronic eartag, with the calf’s data from the previous interaction pulled onto the screen along with any alerts.
A temperature probe is able to record temperature and gives a warning if it is higher or lower than would be expected. From there, the operator can input colostrum and milk intake for the day, plus record various calf appearance data via a traffic light system. Alternatively, if using the manufacturer’s feeders, data can be transferred onto the device. Treatments and weight records can also be input.
Data can be downloaded to the office computer via Bluetooth, WiFi or cable. The manufacturer plans on adding beef and sheep functionality onto the device, which will be formally released at EuroTier, later this year. The price is set to be in the region of £670-930 (€800-1,100).
BioSentry recently revealed an online visitor book. Legislation dictates a record should be kept of all entries onto a holding, but often this is not adhered to.
Run via a tablet, a visitor creates a profile, including name, photo and company information on their smart phone. This is scanned upon entry, with a message sent to the site owner. The visitor book can also be linked to an electronic gate, allowing remote access if the owner is not present.
A record of where the visitor has been is also kept, alerting the premise owner if the visitor has come from an area of known disease risk, while keeping a trail of their movements, in case of a disease breakdown.
The online book is also GDPR compliant. A conventional visitor book is no longer compliant as visitors’ details are free to see by all who are looking at the book, whereas the BioSentry system stores this data off site.
Cost for the system ranges between £5 and £50 per month, depending on the size of the farm and visitor numbers. It is being marketed in the UK by Miracle Tech.
Well known for its calving sensors, Moocall has now developed the Breedmanager app, suitable for Android and iOS phones. The app connects to both the firm’s calving sensor and its heat detection collar.
The collar is worn by a bull if natural service is used, or a vasectomised bull if AI is preferred. RFID tags in the cows and heifers are acknowledged by the collar, with the interaction between each recorded. Overtime a picture is built up, with any longer interactions recorded as signs of heat.
An accelerometer in the collar is also used to determine if the bull has mounted a cow. A SIM card in the collar sends data to the app, which will calculate service dates, repeat dates and due dates, with AI data also able to be input into the system.
The collar’s battery charge will last for about 12 weeks. The app is free to download and use as a standalone breeding management tool. The collar and 50 tags cost £1,095 plus £255 subscription per year. Additional tags are priced at £3 each.
Specifically designed for bovine blood, the CentriVet ketone monitoring system measures both beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and glucose levels, giving quick and accurate diagnosis of subclinical ketosis, according to the manufacture.
It says an estimated 50 per cent of all dairy cows are at risk of ketosis, with clinical signs only showing at two to three weeks post-partum. However, subclinical ketosis even in the first week of lactation can equate to decreased milk yield of up to 9.5 litres per day.
Its monitoring tool can be used before clinical signs are present, giving quantitative results that can be used to predict and prevent ketosis, in 10 seconds. BHB is the most important ketone to monitor, and using blood, as opposed to milk or urine, gives more accurate results, says the manufacturer.
A drop of blood is extracted and placed on the test strips, before being inserted into the device for analysis. Being handheld, results are given cow side, so immediate remedial action with propylene glycol, can be given.