The technology, Herdvision, has been developed by Kingshay working in partnership with the Centre for Machine Vision in the Bristol Robotics Lab at the University of the West of England and AgsenZe. It removes measurements that currently have to be made subjectively by the human eye, and instead uses visual monitoring, data recording and automated intelligence to assist in managing cow welfare.
The trial has been welcomed by Morrisons which is supporting the Arla UK 360 programme across its entire Arla milk supply.
Sophie Throup, Senior Agriculture Manager at Morrisons, comments: "Technology and innovations opening up further improvements in the health and welfare of livestock are exciting. Having organised trials for these tools to help Arla UK 360 farmers enhance their already leading standards is encouraging and a further demonstration of why we wanted to adopt the 360 standards in full for the farms who supply us. Our customers care about animal welfare, so to know that these trials can improve the well-being of the animals supplying their milk is reassuring.”
Arthur Fearnell, elected Arla Board member and one of the Arla farmer owners currently transitioning to the Arla UK 360 programme with the support of Morrisons, says: “Technology has moved on so much in the last decade and it is providing new opportunities to further enhance animal health on farm. The systems Arla UK 360 farmers are now trialling give a picture of each individual animal’s health that humans alone could only dream of seeing. Identifying early signs of change have a positive impact across the board, from overall cow wellbeing, to better milk production, a reduced need for medication and increased fertility rates.”
While there are already other scanning technologies on the market, the new Herdvision technology doesn’t 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 into the system, this system will measure and identify changes to cow health based on each individual cow’s own health record.”
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 wellbeing metrics into one overall picture of animal wellbeing.
Graham Wilkinson, Agricultural Director of Arla Foods explains, “Arla farmers are already in tune with the wellbeing 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 wellbeing 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.”
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.