Radio frequencies detect estrus
this document web posted: Wednesday March 9, 2005 20050310p103
By Ian Bell
The idea of placing a radio frequency device in a cow's rumen to detect when it is in heat is no longer science fiction.
The U.S. dairy industry is already pursuing the idea's merits and researchers in Western Canada want to explore whether it could also benefit beef producers.
"The research is still really in its infancy but it is something to pay attention to," said Julie Small, a research scientist who specializes in beef cattle reproductive management at the Agriculture Canada Brandon Research Centre
At least one U.S. company is already promoting a radio frequency device contained in a bolus. After being fed down a dairy cow's throat, the device sits in the reticulum, the second chamber of the digestive tract, for the lifetime of the animal.
The bolus contains electronics that measure temperature in the reticulum as well as a transmitter that relays information via a coded radio frequency.
A panel that houses antennas and sensors gathers information from the transmitter. It is placed where dairy cows will either enter or exit the parlour.
Each time a cow passes the panel, information about reticular temperature is transmitted from the bolus to the panel and then conveyed into a computer. The panel is equipped with electronics that can identify a cow according to the unique radio frequency of its bolus.
The data is checked regularly for temperature patterns that could indicate a cow in heat.
"There's a lot of fine tuning to be done, but certainly it has great potential," Small said.
One of the problems is that feed and water intake can skew the information.
The U.S. product is called the MaGiix Rumen Bolus and its manufacturer claims it is impervious to stomach acids and provides lifetime protection against hardware disease.
Aside from estrus detection, the product is also intended to detect sickness in cattle, monitor for heat stress and help reveal calving date.
Small said radio frequency boluses could also be used as part of Canada's cattle identification program.
"Red meat is NOT bad for you. Now, blue-green meat - THAT'S bad for you!"