“Cow chips” are helping Utah State University researchers gather more data from dairy cows. Not the usual kind of cow chip, these are small implants called EmbediVet that track biometric data. Everything about the cow’s life is measured and recorded–things like activity, heart rate and temperature.
“The greatest benefit from implanting this type of device is that it collects more sensitive data than the external wearables that are out there for livestock,” said Kerry Rood, USU Extension veterinarian and associate professor of animal science.
Rood said USU is conducting a pilot program in cooperation with Livestock Labs. One of his first priorities is to make sure the cows are as comfortable as possible.
“If we can detect animal discomfort and animal disease sooner with data from the implants then I think that relieves pain and suffering in animals,” he said. “As a veterinarian, I’ve pledged to relieve pain and suffering in animals.”
The better care farmers give their animals, the more food the animals produce, according to Rood. USU Applied Economics Professor Dillon Feuz said technology has the potential to improve the food system from farmers all the way to consumers.
“As a university, our mission is to conduct research and help producers know whether using new practices or investing in new equipment would be a good decision or not,” Feuz said.
As more data becomes available to farmers, Feuz said they will be able to make more efficient decisions for their operations.
Rusty Stott, USU veterinarian and clinical assistant professor who is monitoring the cows throughout the process, said the chips provide up-to-the minute data.
“That can provide us essential information in helping to diagnose a disease and formulate a treatment plan that will help them recover quicker,” Stott said. “In the end it should provide them better welfare and better quality of life.”
If the animals are having health issues Stott said the implanted chip would be less invasive in the long run instead of performing multiple operations to find the problem.
“It would provide dairymen the opportunity to detect diseases much earlier and reduce the impact the disease has on the animal,” Stott said. “Not all happy cows are in California. They’re right here in Utah.”