CANADA – There is scope for the feedlots of the future to use ear tags in the early detection of cattle disease, according to early research.
Scientists at the University of Calgary have “strong belief” that fixing accelerometers to cattle can alert cattlemen to the onset of diseases such as Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) long before symptoms show.
By measuring ear movement, the team calculated feed and rumination time.
Present accuracies of 49 per cent and 95 per cent have been reported in the Journal of Animal Science for rumination and feeding activity respectively.
The gadget works by quantifying ear movements through proprietary algorithms which are then relayed online and downloaded to a smartphone application. Tag accuracy was tested in the study by comparing human observations with accelerometer readings.
Researchers said the “promising” tool requires rumination measuring improving but that it has “proven its application” in dairy cows.
An earlier study found dairy cow rumination could be successfully monitored by microphones on collars but not so in beef systems, possibly because of physiological differences such as dewlap, neck muscles and skin thickness.
The report said: "Early identification of sick cattle increases treatment success and decreases mortality. Continuous automated records of behaviour can be used to identify sick cattle early in the disease process.
"The objective was to evaluate accuracy of an ear-attached accelerometer (SensOor) that quantified ear movements and estimated feeding and rumination time through a proprietary algorithm."