UK farmers trial 3D scanner to improve cow welfare

The technology is being trialled on ten UK farms which supply dairy cooperative Arla
The technology is being trialled on ten UK farms which supply dairy cooperative Arla

UK farmers are to trial an industry-first 3D scanning system which helps identify changes in cows' physical well being.

The tech trial will also identify changes in cows' mobility and weight, even before they are visible to the human eye.

It removes measurements that currently have to be made subjectively and instead uses visual monitoring, data recording and automated intelligence.

The scanner sits above the animal and assesses mobility and body condition.

The image is captured as data which is analysed by algorithms to report incremental changes in the key traits of body condition and mobility.

Unlike other technology, this scanner doesn’t need the cows to stop which means they are unaware of the assessment being done and their behaviour remains natural.

Dairy cooperative Arla is trialling the Herdvision technology, developed by Kingshay and the Bristol Robotics Lab.

Arthur Fearnell, farmer and elected Arla Board member, said: “Technology has moved on so much in the last decade and it is providing new opportunities to further enhance animal health on farm.

“The systems Arla farmers are now trialling give a picture of each individual animal’s health that humans alone could only dream of seeing.”

He added: “Identifying early signs of change can have a positive impact across the board, from overall cow wellbeing, to better milk production, a reduced need for medication and increased fertility rates.”

Studies show that cows behave differently if they think they are being watched, affecting the way they walk or move.

Duncan Forbes, Dairy Research Director of Kingshay, said: “It is ingrained primitive behaviour not to show weakness and even though cows have been domesticated for thousands of years, the mindset of best foot forward still seems prevalent in today’s animals.

“Overcoming that issue, and with artificial intelligence built in, this system will measure and identify changes to cow health based on each individual cow’s own health record.”

With results being built over time as increased amounts of animal health data is recorded, the trial will continue until a decision can be made about the proven benefits of this type of technology.