Scientific field trials on two commercial dairy farms in Belgium and the Netherlands have already proved the value of AI technology in the early detection and treatment of illness in dairy herds. Ida, developed by Dutch agtech company Connecterra, uses a wearable sensor, cloud computing, integration of data sources and AI for early detection of diseases such as ketosis, mastitis or digestive problems.
A field trial of Ida was conducted within the context of the Horizon2020 Internet for Food and Farm project and supported by Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Half of the 200 dairy cows were chosen at random to receive an Ida sensor. By spotting symptoms early, animal treatment times in the trials were reduced by 2.16 treatment days in 2018 (-68%) and by 2.45 treatment days (-77.5%) in 2019. The field trial will run until the end of 2020.
Shorter treatment length means lower doses of antibiotics. This leads to a cost saving for the herd owner and helps in the fight to reduce the development of antibiotic resistant infections across the world. Not to mention the improvement to animal well-being through shortened illness duration.
“The results are impressive“
“It is the first time that we do such a field trial to test the use of sensor technology in relation to (antibiotic) treatment days. With the data over 2019 we now have information on treatment days per cow over a longer period of time (25 months). The results are impressive and confirm what we have seen in the first year (2018) of the trial”, explains Niels Rutten, researcher at Connecterra and coordinator of the trial. “When Ida notices a reduction in rumination time for example, a farmer can act on it. A farmer may not always spot that a cow is eating less or lying more, but these behavioural changes are often the onset of disease. Having Ida means the farmer can check on the cow and prevent the disease from getting worse or clinical, hence leading to an overall drop in treatment days per cow. We see good results in the early detection of E. coli mastitis for example”.
Kees Lokhorst, Senior Researcher Smart Farming at Wageningen UR in the Netherlands adds: “The nice thing of this experiment is that it shows in practice that the Ida system is able to learn over time and is improving itself. The Internet of Things connected sensors and the central used Artificial Intelligence technology to improve warnings, really supported the individual farmers in detection and treatment”.
Andy van Rossem is a dairy farmer in Belgium and participated in the field trial. He clearly sees the benefits of the Ida health insights. “Knowing the early signs of sickness is one of the biggest wins of using this technology. Mastitis is one of the diseases that Ida detected at a very early stage. I get notified in the app when there is a little drop in ruminating and eating behaviour of my cows. I can then check on them and start (preventive) treatment sooner. For a costly disease such as mastitis it makes all the difference to be 1-2 days earlier with the start of treatment”, Van Rossem explains.
Healthy cows for a healthy farm
In the management of complex dairy farms the welfare of the cows and production costs play an important role. Keeping dairy herds healthy can save a farmer a lot per year and reduce losses. This is especially true in the case of costly diseases like mastitis, lameness and pneumonia. Wageningen University in the Netherlands calculated that mastitis is costing a farmer €240 ($USD 221) per lactating cow per year. In addition, this disease can result in a loss of 336 kilograms of milk.
Ida has been developed by Connecterra and is available in 16 countries, including the US and Canada.