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On-farm ‘Intelligent Eye’ Provides Farmers With Real-time Health Of Dairy Herd

A pilot of a new automated on-farm monitoring system designed to provide farmers with an “intelligent eye” over the health of their herd, allowing for early detection of conditions such as lameness, will be launched today at Fieldays 2021.

Created by the makers of the world’s first sheep facial recognition system, Dunedin-based Iris Data Science, the technology is currently being piloted on five dairy farms in the lower South Island with success – and the company hopes to extend this to around 50 farms.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is contributing $40,000 to the project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

“Our pilot farms are already seeing promising results, with farmers saying they are receiving valuable, accurate, and consistent information on the condition of their herds,” says Iris Data Science’s co-founder and managing director Greg Peyroux.

“We’re seeking more farmers to help co-design this exciting new platform to ensure it meets the needs of farmers here and around the world.”

The system uses a non-intrusive on-farm camera and monitoring system that collects tens of thousands of data points from every cow, every day to provide an “intelligent eye” over livestock. The visual identification of the cows uses a technique similar to the sheep facial recognition software earlier developed by the company.

The first product – OmniEye Locomotion – allows for early detection of lameness and drafting of animals, resulting in less suffering and less costly interventions and culling. Farmers receive real-time information that they can action – either automatically or manually drafting cows that need treatment, and allows for remote diagnostics for livestock by a vet.

Another product in the system – OmniEye Diary – gives visual verification of an animal’s condition over time to provide better understanding of the herd’s health.

“We understand lameness is a huge issue for farmers in New Zealand, costing thousands of dollars each year through a loss of production and is also a major animal welfare issue. OmniEye allows for early detection and is already working well in its pilot phase.

“We’re hoping to develop the technology further by bringing more farms into the pilot.”

Powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence software, the proprietary system is set to revolutionise animal monitoring by allowing farmers to automatically observe and record traits and conditions that would typically require human intervention or stock handling to install a physical device on the animals.

Steve Penno, MPI’s Director Investment Programmes, says this new innovation could help improve important animal welfare outcomes.

“Finding an easy solution for farmers to detect lameness early on in their herd provides a huge benefit as they’ll be able to identify and treat the issue before it reaches a critical point.”

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