Up to 20% of dairy cows develop acidosis after calving. A condition known as sub-acute rumen acidosis (SARA) may also be present in larger numbers of cows. This will reduce milk fat and milk output and in some cows to cause more serious disease such as lameness, mastitis and sub-fertility which can cost hundreds of dollars per affected animal.
Sub-acute rumen acidosis (SARA) is an increasing health problem in most dairy herds in the US and has been estimated to cost the US dairy industry between $500m and $1 billion per annum. Results from field studies indicate a high prevalence of SARA in high-producing dairy herds as producers respond to the demands for increased milk production with higher grain, low fibre diets to maximize energy intake during early lactation. SARA poses a challenge for dairy farmers and dairy nutritionists to implement feed management practices to prevent or reduce the incidence of this disease.
Monitoring rumen pH levels in sentinel cows within a herd would provide farmers with important information indicative of the state of dietary health of the herd. When the sentinel cows exhibit increasing acidosis, this allows a farmer to adjust feeding to prevent major problems developing.
Methods for monitoring the rumen pH in cows are currently limited to either invasive veterinary techniques for off-line analysis or pH sensors inserted through a cannula and connected by a wire to a data collection device outside the animal.
What is required is a radio transmitter based device which can be inserted into the rumen and send data remotely to farm information systems to alert the farmer to the potential onset of problems. Such devices are available with a short lifetime and have been used to validate the approach of remotely monitoring rumen pH. Long lifetime sensors which will last for 100 days and which transmit data remotely to farm information systems are under development and are currently being used in trials.
Well Cow Ltd. is the leader in the development of wireless rumen pH monitoring devices.
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