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Daniel Bell

Publication Date
  • Studies In Human Society
  • Sociology
  • Sociology Not Elsewhere Classified


Secret life of cows and their collars By Lana BeSt Dairy cows sporting large blue tracking devices and giant numbers on their bodies at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture Dairy Research Centre mark a whole new area of research that could make dairy farming more sustainable in the future. Farmers’ use of GPS technology to take the guesswork out of farm management and save big dollars is now becoming commonplace. Originally used by the CSIRO to track the movements of semi-wild beef cattle on huge Queensland properties, cow collars were offered to TIA to see what data could come from the placid creatures in their relatively small Burnie paddocks. And while you could be forgiven for thinking that it wouldn’t be hard to keep track of a dairy cow, TIA acting dairy centre manager Dr Richard Rawnsley pointed out that even dairy farmers don’t know what their cows get up to at night! “What a dairy cow does out in the paddock during the day or night might be useful to understand because it could influence how they are fed when they come into the shed to be milked,” he said. “It would be great to know if individual cows are being bullied away from feed or there is water in the paddock; if the cow first back to pasture is getting all the good grass and therefore becoming a better- performing milker or if the cow always at the front of the herd then suddenly appears at the back and is injured or lame. “We want to know if there’s a change in a cow's behaviour and whether that could mean she’s sick or coming into heat. “The cow collars not only track where the cows graze, but sensors indicate when they lower and lift their head, when they ruminate, urinate, walk, rest or drink. “Now we just have to make sense of all the data and see if it correlates with what we actually observed the cow doing.” Richard and his TIA colleagues Dr James Hill and Mark Freeman watched 12 numbered cows for six hours a day for the 14 days collars were on

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