On-Farm Research Utilizes Technology in Feeder Calves


Feeder cattle in Adair County on a cooperating farm were introduced to a technology last week aimed to improve the tracking of the health status of each calf.  The Cow Manager System and similar systems have been utilized in dairy cattle and mature beef cattle for observation of estrus for several years by monitoring the daily activity of cattle.  Based on the changes of activity, the software can determine if a cow was coming into heat or may possibly be sick.   A study is being conducted in Adair County to determine if this technology can be adapted and improve management and profitability in high-risk feeder calves.  

The technology consists of a pedometer located within an ear tag that constantly tracks the animal’s activity.  The data recorded is transmitted to a computer and uploaded to a cloud database.  Data collected can be accessed online or from a cell phone app.  Data recorded includes time spent ruminating, eating, activity, and temperature.  When a deviation from the calf’s normal behavior is observed, an alert is sent that the animal is suspected to be sick.    

Initially, 16 calves have been tagged with the Cow Manager System.  A total of 40 head will be tagged in the coming weeks.  Calves tagged are weighing approximately 500-600 pounds and are being purchased from local stockyards.  Calves consist of a mixture of weaned and non-weaned bulls and steers.  Bulls are castrated upon arrival.  

In just the short time the tags have been placed in the calves, noticeable differences exist between the calves.  Calves that were not weaned are recording fewer hours eating.   Bull calves who were castrated on arrival are showing fewer hours of activity and fewer recorded hours of eating.  While this data is not surprising, gaining a better understanding of the stress experienced by high risk feeder cattle can lead us to making management decisions that improve the calf’s health and performance.  Being able to track the calf’s daily activity will provide evidence of when management changes are effective.  

In the coming months, a field day and educational program will be held to share and discuss results of the research.  Funding for this research was provided the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Agriculture & Natural Resource Program.  

For more information, contact the Adair County Cooperative Extension Service at (270) 384-2317.

Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

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