Using IoT to Increase Efficiency, Productivity for Livestock

When it comes to managing livestock and feed, the goal for every farmer is to be as efficient and productive as possible. While today’s farmers have embraced some technology, such as GPS auto-steering tractors, many of their processes are the same as those used in previous generations. There’s a lot of manual work involved including driving out to the pasture several times a day to check on, herd and feed livestock. During calving season, many farmers rarely leave the farm. Ranches with livestock, particularly large-scale agricultural operations, provide one of the best use cases to leverage new technology that uses the Internet of Things (IoT). Because IoT enables farmers to monitor remote locations from one centralized location, they can more efficiently monitor a larger number of livestock and get more detail on each individual animal using the data collected.

While IoT can provide both big picture and day-to-day insights to improve operational efficiencies, the wealth of data that results from connecting a farm to the internet can be overwhelming. Farmers can choose to monitor everything from each animal’s health, location, eating habits and reproductive cycle to the herd’s grazing and movement patterns in a pasture. So, how does a farmer decide which aspects are most useful?

Moo monitor
A MooMonitor wearable on a cow.

Monitoring Health
Farmers in the U.S. lose nearly $2.4 billion per year from animal illnesses that lead to death, according to the USDA. IoT solutions let farmers closely monitor the health of their livestock, which can be an effective way to prevent losses. Solutions generally employ livestock wearables connecting to a gateway using a low-cost, low-bandwidth technology to stream data to the cloud. Connected sensors in the wearable can monitor blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, digestion, temperature and other vitals that allow a farmer to be alerted at the first sign of illness. Without IoT monitoring, problems like a feed issue or illness in a herd may go undetected until one or more animals require veterinary care. With sensors continuously measuring each individual animal’s condition and behavior, farmers can avoid those costs by taking corrective action sooner. For example, a cow’s temperature could rise enough to trigger an alert well before the farmer notices a change in behavior.

Monitoring Reproductive Cycles and Calving

IoT can also be useful during a cow’s reproductive cycle to monitor when a cow goes into heat and when they are ready to birth. Because cows can be in heat for as little as eight hours, IoT devices can notify the farmer as soon as this happens, which increases productivity, efficiency and potential revenue. If the cows are in from the field, a more advanced system with IoT-controlled fencing can automate the process of corralling the cow in heat away from the rest of the herd and into a chute for artificial insemination. When the cow goes into labor, an IoT sensor can send an alert to the farmer, making the calving process safer while eliminating the need for the farmer to continually check on the cow to see if she has started calving.

Tracking Location

IoT sensors in a wearable device can also track an animal’s location, which comes in handy when a farmer’s animals are spread out over multiple acres. Location monitoring can be extremely useful to farmers raising free range or pastured livestock as it allows them to better account for the livestock. Tracking location allows a farmer to immediately locate a sick animal or an animal who has gone into heat and separate it from the herd to provide treatment. Monitoring an animal’s location also allows a farmer to recognize movement patterns for each animal and can alert the farmer when an animal’s behavior appears to be different than normal, which can be a sign of illness. Additionally, movement tracking can help maximize a farmer’s pastureland. With the data provided from tracking each animal’s movement as well as the herd’s migration, farmers can establish and optimize grazing patterns. Location tracking is often a feature included in health or reproductive tracking devices.

Maximizing Milking

IoT devices are also useful to dairy farmers who have cows that need to be milked several times a day. Robots can increase a dairy operation’s milk production by allowing cows to choose when they would like to be milked, which can result in increased milking sessions. Sensors around a cow’s neck alerts the robot to the identity of the cow about to be milked, individualizing the session for her. It can also track each animal’s milking speed, the amount and quality of milk produced, how much the cow has eaten and the number of steps each cow has taken per day. From that data, the farmer can determine which cows are able to produce more milk and improve their diets to increase lactation.

Finetuning Feeding

Farmers can also use movement tracking to monitor specific behaviors in their herds to determine how frequently they feed. They can correlate cows’ movements with specific behaviors such as grazing, socializing or lying down chewing the cud. Knowing how often each of these behaviors occurs can allow farmers to finetune their herd’s feed requirements so they aren’t wasting food or overfeeding their livestock. Farmers can also use IoT devices to monitor feed levels so they know when a trough needs to be refilled or when they need to purchase more feed. These steps can even be automated.

While IoT devices can send real-time alerts to help increase a farm’s efficiency, the data provided over time is perhaps the most powerful result. Taking all the data together can allow a farmer to make decisions based on a full understanding of all aspects of the farm. Herd patterns may lead to an insight into birthing rates or the cause of a disease popping up. Once the data becomes available, it will even be possible to apply machine learning to pull out additional insights that may not be easily identified. At infiswift, we provide an agriculture-specific platform to vendors and farmers to build out these connected IoT applications that can change the way livestock are managed.

Ultimately, farmers will be the ones to care for their livestock, but IoT can optimize and simplify many of the steps involved. Because implementing IoT technology can monitor each animal’s health, fertility, movement, location and more, farms will undergo a change to utilize that data to increase their efficiency, productivity and revenue. This shift is already underway and will continue to pick up steam as livestock management evolves.

Leave a Reply

Sensors/IoT Stories
Cotton closeup
Imagery/SensingCotton Growth Management with Precision Agriculture
June 20, 2017
A cotton crop presents some important differences to other commodities that are widely produced in Brazil, such as soybean and Read More
Sensors/IoTLeveraging IoT to Improve Data Collection for Agriculture
June 12, 2017
Between population growth and climate change, farms of all sizes are being challenged to increase yields. Internet of Things (IoT) Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
InternationalBig Ticket Items: IoT’s True Value Emerging Through Farm Machinery
May 3, 2017
Farms need to do more with less than ever before to remain competitive. This is especially true when it comes Read More
Trending Articles
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Mung beans Australia
InternationalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
Latest News
Cotton closeup
Imagery/SensingCotton Growth Management with Precision Agriculture
June 20, 2017
A cotton crop presents some important differences to other commodities that are widely produced in Brazil, such as soybean and Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsCNBC: Inside Amazon’s Whole Foods Takeover
June 20, 2017
Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods sent the stock of competing grocery chains plummeting. To understand why, you need to know Read More
DronesNavigating a New World: Drone Technology in Agriculture…
June 20, 2017
My first exposure to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was as a master’s student at Kansas State University. I was researching Read More
Precision Ag Innovation Series
EventsInnovation Series Agenda Zeroes In On Maximizing Key Se…
June 14, 2017
In a recent survey of service providers conducted by PrecisionAg® Professional magazine, more than seven in 10 indicated that variable Read More
Soil Scientists
Data ManagementAccessing USDA Soil Data for Precision Farming
June 13, 2017
Many precision farming websites have integrated the USDA NRCS soil survey database using the USDA Soil Data Access web portal. Read More
GEOSYS In-Season Imagery
Decision Support SoftwareGeosys Announces Imagery and Weather Data Offering
June 13, 2017
Geosys, a provider of agronomic decision support tools, today launched Geosys Labs, a new program that will make its global Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Decision Support SoftwareMyriad Mobile Raises $1.5 Million to Launch New Ag-Tech…
June 12, 2017
Myriad Mobile, a software technology company focused on mobile and web applications, has raised $1.5 million in a Pre-Series A Read More
center-pivot-irrigation-drop-sprinklers-on-corn
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable-Rate Fertigation Can Be Simple
June 12, 2017
A rule is a rule is a rule, right? Well, not always. Sometimes, rules are meant to be changed. Most Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Sensors/IoTLeveraging IoT to Improve Data Collection for Agricultu…
June 12, 2017
Between population growth and climate change, farms of all sizes are being challenged to increase yields. Internet of Things (IoT) Read More
DronesAg Drone Update: The Hunt for 1,000 (OPINION)
June 10, 2017
Having obtained my FAA Part 107 Commercial Drone Operators license back in September of last year, I’ve spent the past Read More
Industry NewsMergers & Acquisitions: Land O’Lakes Tosses E…
June 9, 2017
Land O’Lakes has made a minority equity investment in EFC Systems, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and precision solution provider Read More
Mixmate-featured-image
Decision Support SoftwareHandy Software, Hardware for the Field
June 7, 2017
More than two decades ago, Iowa grower Doug Applegate wished for a “little portable chemical blending system” that could easily Read More
Decision Support SoftwareHarnessing A Team To Build Your Own Software
June 7, 2017
What’s a powerhouse retail network to do when it can’t find a software system to meet incredibly diverse needs? Build Read More
Tim Ferrell Marshall County Co-op
Decision Support SoftwareWhen It’s Time To Switch Software
June 7, 2017
No one in their right mind wants to change software. That’s the opinion of Tim Ferrell, manager of Marshall County Read More
PA Special Report Enterprise
Decision Support SoftwareSpecial Report: Enterprise Management Systems
June 7, 2017
A functional and stable software system can allow a retail operation to run at maximum efficiency, build customer loyalty and Read More
Farming big data style
ProfessionalsAre You REALLY a Precision Farming #Agvocate? This Summ…
June 6, 2017
Go Feed Yourself. That’s the catchphrase of my favorite ag Twitter personality, Shark Farmer (@sf28430), who besides bringing plenty of Read More