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Friday
Feb172012

i4 Product Design Helps "Well Cow" Develop Wireless Enabled Device to Monitor Cows' Health

The world’s only long term device for farmers to help them monitor their dairy herd’s dietary health and improve milk yields using its unique wireless telemetry bolus system is being developed by Well Cow Limited™. To assist with this project, Well Cow has brought in one of Scotland’s leading product development companies, i4 Product Design, to work on re-designing the device over the next six months. Well Cow was recently successful in securing a SMART award from the Scottish Government to undertake a feasibility study to ensure the bolus continues to operate for longer periods in the very challenging environment of a cow’s rumen.

Well Cow is based at the Roslin BioCentre and i4 Product Design at Edinburgh Technopole – which are both within the Edinburgh Science Triangle, one of Europe’s top science and technology locations – situated within the Edinburgh city region and an area with a long history of innovation.

i4 Product Design has been tasked with helping redesign Well Cow’s pH ‘bolus’. This is a capsule containing a sensor that’s inserted through the cow’s mouth and sits in the animal’s rumen (the first compartment of its stomach) for up to 100 days. Here it monitors and stores the rumen’s pH levels every 15 minutes. It also records temperature. The data can be read wirelessly up to two metres away via a hand held device or via a collar on the cow. Data can then be transmitted to a server through mobile telephony and onto the internet. This information can then be accessed from anywhere in the world via a secure website.

When the device is inserted in selected cows it will be able to provide an overall picture of the herd’s dietary health. If the cow’s pH levels vary more than normal, this will indicate that a dietary change is required. By analysing the acidity in the dairy cow, digestive problems can be identified at an early stage and corrected quickly. This will benefit farmers through improved efficiency of milk production and help prevent any loss of livestock resulting from more serious conditions.

For example, an increasing health problem in a large proportion of dairy cows is ‘sub-acute ruminal acidosis’ (SARA), particularly in the US. SARA reduces the total milk produced by cows and can lead to more serious conditions, resulting in financial losses for farmers through lost livestock. This can be avoided by monitoring the herd’s pH levels with the bolus and adjusting its feed accordingly in a much more cow-friendly way than is currently available.

By addressing the herd’s diet it is possible to reduce the amount of methane gas emitted from the cow, therefore also cutting the herd’s environmental impact. Methane is a more potent global warming gas than carbon dioxide and farmed ruminant animals are thought to be responsible for a quarter of all manmade methane emissions worldwide. Also, dairy cows account for 40% of all UK livestock methane emissions (The Guardian, 10 July 2007).

Malcolm Bateman, a Director of Well Cow said: “Currently there is nothing available across the global market place that can perform the same job as our wireless telemetry bolus system. This will be a revolutionary product for dairy farmers around the world to monitor the dietary health of herds, react to any issues and prevent loss of livestock, improve milk yield and of course maintain the well being of these animals.

"We chose i4 Product Design to help re-design the bolus because we’d heard of their extensive experience in creating devices to be used in harsh environments. This device needs to be rugged enough to survive in a cow’s rumen without causing any discomfort to the cow and be able to accurately record the rumen’s fluid pH levels. We also wanted input from a product development company that can bring innovative design to the table."

Key markets for Well Cow’s new product will be North America and Australasia where large herds of dairy cows will benefit from this device. Well Cow aims to launch the production version of the product in the last quarter of 2010.

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Reader Comments (1)

good one...

Digital Revolution

July 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDR

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