Giving Augmented Reality a Boost
Augmented reality seeks to give dairy operations immediate insights for individual animals.
A productive dairy operation relies on keeping cattle healthy and achieving reproductive success. Dairy producers have been using technology to reach these goals for decades. The next step might take producers into another reality: an augmented reality.
Nedap Livestock Management displayed its augmented reality system at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, last year. Based in Holland, Nedap is a technology company focusing on livestock, retail, health care, lighting, staffing, and security.
“In Europe, the implementation of technology in the dairy industry has been coming for a long time,” said Roxie Muller, innovation manager with Nedap. “Technology can be a huge help in areas like heat detection. Loads of people are offering solutions for heat detection, but health monitoring is another feature that is getting more and more popular.”
More than heat detection
Going beyond just heat detection is an area where Nedap feels its technology can assist dairy producers, Muller said. The foundation of its dairy offering is a collar-based monitoring system that tracks signs of heat, position, eating, rumination, standing, and inactive behavior.
“This information can be a great help for the dairy to manage the herd by exception,” he said. “A cow that’s not ruminating or deviates from normal eating behavior will trigger an alarm. It helps farmers focus their attention on these animals.”
The augmented reality program builds on the monitoring technology to allow quick visualization of insights right in the pen, Muller said.
“If a producer is performing a preg check, for instance, the augmented reality would show relevant information and give you the option to enter information into the system right then,” he explained. “You don’t have to write it down to enter it into the computer later. It could be done with a hand gesture or voice command, and the system records the action in real-time. The philosophy is to bridge the gap between technology and the user experience – record things while they were happening. It eliminates the need for administration later.”
Nedap Augmented Reality uses Microsoft Hololens mixed-reality goggles to display data above each cow in the producer’s field of vision. The display also can help locate a specific cow’s exact location in the barn. In fact, the technology won an Innovation of the Year Award at EuroTier 2018.
The return on investment for the technology depends on a farm’s current status.
“A farm that is performing poorly can benefit from implementing technology that allows them to spot problems earlier. It’s a short return on investment for these operations,” Muller said. “For farms that are already implementing a good heat detection system with good pregnancy rates, the ROI will be pushed back farther.”
Nedap sees potential health improvements as an area where most operations could experience savings. The technology uses an individual cow average for typical behaviors that takes up to seven days to create. Then, benchmarks for rumination, for example, are based on the individual animal and not a generic average.
To distribute its technology in the United States, Nedap has partnered with milking equipment companies like GEA and Lely as well as dairy genetics companies like Alta Genetics.
Kirk Vander Dussen, Alta US senior sales manager, said the relationship benefits the dairy producer in several ways.
“Alta Genetics and Nedap are proud of its worldwide partnership and our Alta Cow Watch product. Dairymen today recognize the need to gain efficiencies in all aspects of their operations,” Vander Dussen said. “Alta Cow Watch provides the most cutting-edge technology to monitor, track and, ultimately, make better decisions everyday on-farm that drive results.”
- Precision dairy cattle monitoring systems are available from several manufacturers
- Augmented reality differentiates itself by offering hands-free, real-time insights into each cow’s behavior on the spot
Photos provided by Nedap Livestock Management