by George Nott

Aussie cows get ‘fitness tracker’

Nov 20, 2018
Collaboration SoftwareDigital TransformationMobile

An electronic ear tag that can track the location of livestock has been launched by CSIRO and agtech start-up Ceres Tag to help farmers keep track of where their animals are and what they are doing.

The tag – which operates using a GPS tracking system and features various sensors – was successfully trialled on 100 cattle atCSIRO’s Lansdown Research Station near Townsville, Queensland, last week. The trial follows an earlier trial on 20, nine to 12 months old Droughtmaster steers in March.

The technology integrates with existing cattle management software, so farmers can track where herds graze, if an animal has escaped or been stolen, and unusual movements which could indicate an animal is giving birth or sick.

“Ceres Tag gives greater transparency over grazing management, allowing farmers to locate and monitor their animals to reduce risk and operating costs, improve efficiency and assist with traceability,” said David Smith, CEO of Ceres Tag.

Ceres Tag CEO David Smith

The rugged tags are designed to last throughout the life of the animal in harsh conditions. They are solar powered and feature “unique intellectual property to maintain connectivity of data and power” Ceres Tag said.

On-board accelerometers mean the tag can send out alerts for unusual activity patterns which could be triggered by events like theft and other disturbances of the herd.

Typically, farmers monitor the whereabouts of their herds manually using vehicles or aircraft.

“Aussie farmers need every bit of help they can get right now so we are pleased it has taken less than a year for this technology to move from the research phase into development for a real-world trial on cattle,” said Dr Ed Charmley, group leader atCSIRO.

CSIRO’s Mel Matthews shows off a smart ear tag and applicator

Future iterations of the device will be smaller and lighter, and come with added functionality like a temperature sensor to alert farmers to illnesses earlier, as well as virtual fencing capabilities.

Charmley likened the tag – co-funded by MLA Donor Company and the result of research by CSIRO James Cook University and the Queensland Department of Science – to a fitness tracker for cows.

Ceres Tag hopes their product will be the world’s first smart ear tag accredited for provenance to international traceability standards, including Australia’s National Livestock Identification System (NLIS).

In February, La Trobe University revealed it was hoping to commercialise similar technology – which analyses movement data much like a Fitbit worn by a human – to help farmers understand and act on an individual animal’s behaviour.