Producers to trial industry’s first 3D scanning systems to improve cow welfare

12 Jul 2019

A 3D scanning tech trial, which will help producers to identify changes in their cow’s physical wellbeing, mobility and weight – even before they are visible to the human eye – has been launched by farmer-owned airy cooperative Arla

The technology, Herdvision, has been developed by Kingshay in partnership with the Centre for Machine Vision in the Bristol Robotics Lab at the University of the West of England, and AgsenZe.

Automated intelligence

It uses visual monitoring, data recording and automated intelligence to assist in managing cow welfare.

If trials are successful, the automation of monitoring body conditioning, mobility and herd health could provide an important component for the farmer-owned cooperative’s Happy Cow measure – its vision for using future technology to bring together physical and behavioural wellbeing metrics into one overall picture of animal wellbeing.

While there are already other scanning technologies on the market, this system technology doesn’t require the cow to stand still. This means that it is easier to use and offers greater accuracy.

Health data

The scanner is being trialled on 10 Arla UK 360 farms. With results being built over time as increased amounts of animal health data is recorded, the trial will continue until an evidence- based decision can be made about the proven benefits of this type of technology.

The scanner sits above the animal and assesses mobility and body condition. The system uses a sophisticated 3D camera to scan the animal as it passes below it. The image is captured as data, which is analysed by algorithms to report incremental changes in the key traits of body condition and mobility.

Natural behaviour

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

“Much like humans reacting differently if we know there is a camera filming us, cows do the same,” explains Kingshay’s Duncan Forbes. “Studies show that cows behave differently if they think they are being watched, affecting the way they walk or move.

Identify changes

“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.”