Press release 2020-10-26

New international research collaboration to improve detection of disease, stress and injury in dairy cows

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Northern Ireland and Swedish AgTech company Agricam AB have joined forces in a mutual three-year research project into early detection of disease, stress and injury in dairy cows. AFBI’s participation in the project is funded by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland. The ultimate aim of the project is to develop technology that allows farmers to improve dairy cow welfare, reduce antimicrobial use and improve productivity.

Sensor technology is increasingly used in dairy production to allow automated monitoring of individual animals. Because such technology is automated, it can monitor cows on a regular basis, allowing problems to be detected and treated in their earliest stages. Agricam previously developed such a sensor system using thermal cameras. The system automatically provides a “heat-map” of the cow’s udder as she passes to or from the milking parlour. Dedicated software automatically analyses these heat maps, in search of changes in udder temperature indicative of mastitis in its infancy, and reports any issues to the farmer. Mastitis is one of the most common diseases in dairy farming and results in the greatest costs due to production losses and treatment. Therefore, it was the obvious disease to start with when developing the system.

However, the thermal system is likely to be capable of detecting a wide variety of other welfare problems as well, as long as these are associated with increased skin temperature. Physical problems, for instance lameness or injuries, are usually associated with increased skin temperature as a result of inflammation. Fever is a symptom of many diseases and even stress can lead to altered temperatures through a process known as ‘emotional fever’. AFBI will study which welfare issues can be detected reliably using the thermal system, and if this leads to earlier detection than traditional health monitoring. AFBI is no stranger to research on the use of thermal cameras as a diagnostic tool, having previously assessed its capacity to detect calf health problems. 
 
Stephanie Buijs, Senior Scientific Officer at AFBI, comments:
Early detection is key in curing or alleviating welfare problems at a minimum of cost to the cow and the farmer. This requires reliable routine monitoring, which is greatly facilitated by automating detection systems. That’s why we are very happy to develop the science that informs such automated systems.
 
The installation of the thermal camera system at AFBI’s experimental farm is Agricam’s first installation at a research institute. Ellinor Eineren, CEO, is thrilled to collaborate with AFBI.
-    We are very excited to be a technical partner to AFBI and participate in this important project as it touches everything that Agricam stands for and develops - sensor technology and health management.

 

About Agricam AB

Agricam AB offers analytical services and products to improve the animal health, to increase the production and to reduce the use of antibiotics at dairy farms.

 

Agricam’s product lines:

  • Sensors

  • Strategic veterinary service

  • Cow care products

 

The product lines complement each other and create a holistic approach to animal health in order to create long-term results, reduce costs and increase efficiency.

 

About AFBI

AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development as well as statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DAERA and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.

 

AFBI's Vision is “Advancing the Local and Global Agri-Food Sectors Through Scientific Excellence”.

 

AFBI's core areas:

  • Leading improvements in the agri-food industry

  • Protecting animal, plant, and human health

  • Enhancing the natural and marine environment

Thermal system scanning cow at AFBI

Stephanie Buijs (AFBI) , Martin Johansson (CTO Agricam), Johan Waldner (Chief Veterinarian Agricam)

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