Call it Speedy Mooing Service. Dairy farmers used to getting up in the middle of the night to milk and take care of their herds can rest a little easier thanks to an Israeli product that makesit possible for farmers to receive text messages when their cows need special attention. The system, which also works by e-mail, alerts farmers when a cow has a problem, or even enters labor ahead of birth, using activity and rumination sensing technology.
SCR Engineers, an Israeli company specializing in technology for dairy farming, has completed development of a new device allowing farmers to continuously monitor every cow in the herd. Every cow is given an electronic tag that monitors its individual activity levels and even monitors how it chews its cud - 24 hours a day. Cud chewing is considered a very sensitive sign of the cow's physical and emotional state. Sick cows barely chew their cud, and other factors such as being too hot or eating problems also clearly affect the data.
The device, known as Heatime, monitors individual cows' activity levels in two-hour blocks, providing highly detailed information on each cow. Each time the cow passes under a transceiver unit, the data is transmitted from the tag using infrared communications. The data is then analyzed by special software from SCR - and warnings can be sent out by email or text message.
The tags contain a microprocessor, accelerometer and even a microphone.
"Early detection of problems in the cows' condition allows the farmer to keep milk production high, while saving on the costs of caring for the cows, and sometimes even saving the life of a cow in serious distress," said SCR's vice president of sales and marketing, Ori Inbar. This is also important when the cow gives birth and there are post-natal complications, he said.
The common method used by farmers and veterinarians today to spot such problems is by observing the cow's behavior, and the quality of the results depends on the experience of the observer and the amount of time they are willing to spend watching the cow, said Inbar.
This is an almost impossible mission in a modern dairy barn with hundreds and even thousands of cows, he said.
SCR has a wide range of technology products for dairy herds, such as milking controllers and herd management systems, and some 7 million cows around the world use the company's products in some form. SCR makes products for sheep and goats too. It also sells advanced subassemblies to some of the world's largest dairy equipment suppliers.
SCR was founded in 1976 and is privately held. It has about 190 employees. The company's headquarters and manufacturing facilities are in Netanya.
SCR had $35 million in sales in 2010, 85% of which was abroad. In 2009, Ariel Halperin's Tene Investment Funds bought 20% of the firm.
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