Irish agtech start-up Cainthus has released ALUS Behavior, providing dairy farmers with access to valuable insights on cow behaviour and cow comfort, pivotal to milk production and animal welfare, and ultimately, farm profitability and sustainability.
The Dublin-based computer vision and artificial intelligence company has developed state-of-the-art AI to automatically transform visual inputs from cameras into significant insights about feed management and animal behaviour. Having spent the last three years working alongside a farmer advisor group in North America, it has now developed ALUS Behavior, which monitors cows and their activities – such as lying, eating, and drinking – around the clock, to ensure they are displaying the behaviour patterns that result in maximum milk production. The visual data captured is processed in real time and key insights can be displayed on phone, tablet or PC dashboard, using an easy-to-use interface.
Cow Comfort Index
If cows are relaxed and can show their normal behaviour, it directly results in increased health and welfare, better milk production and hence better farm profitability, according to the company. It argues the lying time of high yielding cows is, for example, crucial for maximising milk production and their welfare, and should be set at a minimum of 12 hours per day. The company points to research (Grant, 2007, Miner Institute) that shows that for every additional hour of resting time, milk production increases by approximately 1.7kg. Cainthus believes having the ability to monitor lying time is therefore key to improving productivity and identifying potential issues within herds, and can also provide more detailed analytics for an in-depth look at historical trends and the impact of changes to herd management practices.
Initially, ALUS Behavior will deliver insights into lying time and time out of pen. This will be enhanced in a later version, which will provide the full cow time budget, including eating time, drinking time as well as standing time. Another key feature of its most recent release is the Cow Comfort Index, which can be used as an indicator of lameness, and as an important validation of overall welfare.
“Technology in agriculture is becoming more and more important, especially in dairy where efficiency is everything to survival because our net revenues are getting smaller and smaller,” said Steve Maddox Jr., one of Cainthus’ North American farm advisors. “To be able to make it in the dairy industry, we have to embrace technology and we are starting to do so more and more.”
“The technology developed by Cainthus is the biggest revolution in dairy farming since the introduction of the first automatic milker,” said Tyler Bramble, portfolio growth lead manager, Cainthus. “It delivers accurate, reliable, non-biased and real time information which allows for early intervention on the farm. This technology is offering producers the ability to increase the precision in which they manage their herd, and, as a result, drives efficiencies, maximises production and profitability on farms.”
“I think the next three years are going to be the most exciting for precision livestock farming,” concluded Cainthus CEO, Aidan Connolly. “Producers we speak to, with more than 2,000 cows, say they’ll be using technology like Cainthus’ within the next three years. With many of them, it’s already happening. Cainthus has now installed its technology on several major farms in the US, tracking thousands of cows. We worked hard to ensure our unique technology provides meaningful value for producers. The feedback we get from them is very exciting.”
One to watch
ALUS Behavior is the second product that Cainthus has released this year, following the March 2020 launch of its award-winning ALUS Nutrition product, which aims to optimise feed management and labour efficiencies, by allowing producers to input their unique feed management schedule or create a new one. Once data is input, ALUS Nutrition passively monitors feeding events like feed deliveries, push-ups, and cleanouts; and tracks those movements relative to the desired schedule. If the events are not taking place as desired, producers are immediately sent a notification on the ALUS software so that they can act accordingly. ALUS Nutrition also tracks accessibility of feed and highlights times when feed is inaccessible, allowing producers to adjust the feed management schedule if necessary.
Meanwhile, a report in the Irish Times suggests Cainthus is currently seeking to raise more than US$50 million (€42 million) from investors, to help it further develop its AI-enabled livestock monitoring capabilities and product range.