Unique Ear Tag can help Detect Sick Cattle in the Feedyard

Pen rider observes cattle in a feedyard.
Pen rider observes cattle in a feedyard.
(File Photo)

Merck Animal Health today announced the release of SenseHub Feedlot, an Allflex Livestock Intelligence product. The state-of-the-art technology is proven to detect sick cattle earlier, more efficiently and more accurately than traditional visual observation. SenseHub Feedlot features an illuminating electronic ear tag that makes it easy to identify and sort cattle needing attention with less labor and minimal disruption to other animals.

“SenseHub Feedlot offers those who manage and care for cattle an innovative new approach to detecting illness, including bovine respiratory disease (BRD),” said Jason Nickell, DVM, PhD, DACVPM, director of insights and outcomes at Merck Animal Health. “Cattle’s defense mechanisms mean they often hide symptoms of illness, making it very challenging for even experienced pen riders to find sick animals. SenseHub Feedlot assists the pen rider by removing the guesswork. Animals can be pulled and treated more quickly and more accurately.”
How SenseHub Feedlot works
The electronic ear tag tracks behavioral and biometric data to monitor the health of each animal. Body temperature is captured by an infrared thermistor, and a built-in accelerometer measures animal activity. Using collected data, SenseHub Feedlot applies proven machine learning algorithms to identify individual calves that vary from baseline norms.

Caregivers receive a daily pull list on their mobile device and/or computer that includes individual animals identified by the system for further assessment. In parallel, an LED light on the respective sick animals’ tags illuminates and flashes, so pen riders can spot them at a glance. After an animal is pulled, the caregiver determines the cause – BRD, lameness or whatever the issue may be – and provides appropriate treatment.
Research proved SenseHub Feedlot reduces mortality and saves labor.

Research at an Oklahoma feedyard showed that monitoring market cattle with the SenseHub Feedlot system significantly reduced mortality due to BRD, compared with traditional pen rider observation. In the first 60 days on feed, BRD mortality was lower for cattle monitored with SenseHub Feedlot, even though disease incidence was higher for that group.

In addition, the Oklahoma trial demonstrated significant labor savings with SenseHub Feedlot. Riders who observed cattle visually entered an average of 18 pens per day, compared with only 5.3 pens per day on average when assisted by SenseHub Feedlot – a 71% reduction.  

Nickell noted, “The technology is like having another employee monitoring cattle 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even with ‘feedlot’ in the product name, the product also has application in backgrounding/stocker operations or cow/calf operations retaining calves.

“Current users of the technology have reported lower treatment costs, as it allows them to pull sick animals earlier and only treat sick animals,” Nickell added. “They’ve also reported less mortality, fewer retreats and improved treatment outcomes due to earlier intervention.”
Implementing SenseHub Feedlot

SenseHub Feedlot requires minimal hardware and is easy to implement on any size operation. It consists of the ear tag, which is reusable, and an antenna placed strategically on site. A gateway collects, stores and sends data to a data platform. The system has a range of up to 2 miles.

“This technology is another innovation from Merck Animal Health that enables cattle producers to monitor and gather real-time, actionable data to help them better care for and manage cattle,” said Paul Koffman, North America lead, Allflex Livestock Intelligence. “In times when labor supply is short, SenseHub Feedlot is even more helpful as it allows caretakers to more efficiently and accurately assess animal care needs, resulting in better outcomes for cattle and a positive impact to the bottom line for producers.”

SenseHub Feedlot is now available as a part of a limited rollout, with plans to expand availability this summer. For more information on SenseHub Feedlot, visit SenseHubFeedlot.com.



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