Dairy Farmer Richard Watson Gets Help From Ida
Cow No. 14433 doesn’t stand out from the herd at Seven Oaks Dairy in Wisconsin. But New Zealand-born dairy owner Richard Watson knows everything about the brown Jersey heifer without even looking at her.
Watson keeps tabs on the cow, and dozens like her at his 3000-acre operation near Waynesboro, through sensor-laden collars that wirelessly transmit health data to his computer and smartphone. The product is an app called, Ida.
“If it fixes a 10 per cent problem with a herd of 100 cows, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars,” said Watson, whose 2500 cows are spread across three farms. “For us, a 10 per cent problem is hundreds of thousands of dollars. So if we can extract an extra 10 per cent efficiency out of the system, then it’s a five or six times return on the investment. So it makes complete sense to do it.”
Watson’s Burke County dairies have been testing Ida for a little more than a month.
The “intelligent dairy app” was released last year by Netherlands-based Connecterra, which runs herd data through Google’s TensorFlow open-source artificial intelligence software to ensure the bovines are behaving as they should.
Watson started his free-range dairy 10 years ago after retiring from the University of Georgia’s agricultural science faculty. His farms operate under the Hart Agriculture brand in rural Burke County, which the US Department of Agriculture said is Georgia’s second-biggest milk-producing county.
Watson said herd-management technology is becoming an indispensable part of his operation.
“I’ve got 500 cows just on this farm,” he said. “As a farmer-owner-operator, I can’t possibly get around to all 500 of those cows in a given day and make sure their welfare and well-being is being looked after. We needed some remote-sensing technology – something like this to help us manage our cows.”
Original article by Damon Cline, The Augusta Chronicle, April 2, 2018.
Photo by Damon Cline.