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Could 3D scanning systems improve dairy cow welfare, mobility and weight?

A 3D scanning trial will be undertaken to help dairy farmers identify changes in their cow’s physical well being, mobility and weight.

The trial, which is being run by dairy cooperative Arla as part of their ‘360 programme’ and supported by Morrisons, will use Herdvision technology developed by Kingshay.

 

It is hoped the technology will remove the need for measurements to be made subjectively by the human eye and will instead use visual monitoring, data recording and automated intelligence.

 

Positive impact

 

Arthur Fearnell, an Arla farmer, says: “Technology has moved on so much in the last decade and it is providing new opportunities to further enhance animal health on farm. Identifying early signs of change can have a positive impact across the board, from overall cow well being, to better milk production, a reduced need for medication and increased fertility rates.”

 

If trials are successful, the automation of monitoring body conditioning, mobility and herd health in this way could provide an important component for Arla’s ‘happy cow’ measure, Arla’s vision for using future technology to bring together physical and behavioural well being metrics into one overall picture of animal well being.

 

Graham Wilkinson, agricultural director of Arla Foods, says: “Arla farmers are already in tune with the well being of their cows, but digital advances in farming bring the opportunity to revolutionise cow health management. When we launched Arla UK 360 we set out a vision to bring together physical and behavioural well being monitoring to create the ‘happy cow’ measure. The Herdvision technology could be a gamechanger in automating the measurement of the physical components to deliver this.”

 

Greater accuracy

 

While there are already other scanning technologies on the market, the new Herdvision technology does not require the cow to stand still meaning it is easier to use and gives much greater accuracy in the results.

 

Duncan Forbes, dairy research director of Kingshay explains: “Much like humans reacting differently if we know there is a camera filming us, cows do the same. Studies show that cows behave differently if they think they are being watched, affecting the way they walk or move.

 

"It is ingrained primitive behaviour not to show weakness and even though cows have been domesticated for thousands of years, the mindset of best foot forward still seems prevalent in today’s animals. Overcoming that issue, and with artificial intelligence built in, this system will measure and identify changes to cow health based on each individual cow’s own health record.”

 

The Herdvision scanner is being trialled on ten Arla UK 360 farms. With results being built over time as increased amounts of animal health data is recorded, the trial will continue until an evidence based decision can be made about the proven benefits of this type of technology.


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How the technology works

The equipment uses a sophisticated 3D camera to scan the animal as it passes below it.

 

The image is captured as data which is analysed by algorithms to report incremental changes in the key traits of body condition and mobility.

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