That’s right, cows are being incorporated into the Internet of Things via collars that allow farmers to monitor their heat cycles in real time.
A Wi-Fi-connected collar called Silent Herdsman monitors the cow’s movements to determine, with the help of artificial intelligence software, when she is in heat. (Another device, called MooMonitor, offers many of the same features but provides cruder intelligence, leaving more to farmers to interpret.)
It may sound absurd, but the name of the game in milk production is impregnating cows as soon as possible after they’ve had their last calf. Missing a cycle means lost sales of about 5 gallons of milk a day, costing about €230 ($315) per cycle. And since nearly all cows are artificially inseminated, failed attempts to impregnate a cow also come with a price tag.
Yet heat can be difficult to detect. According to an agricultural website, “The most reliable sign a cow is in heat is standing to be mounted by a herd mate. Each stand lasts only 4 to 6 seconds. Cows average about 1½ mounts per hour and are in heat 6-8 hours.” Farmers grumble that sometimes those precious hours occur in the middle of the night.
Thus does agriculture, the oldest trade, benefit from an uber-modern vision of productivity.