Science & Technology

The Barn of the Future

An innovative electrical device will monitor dairy cattle.

Students pose next to cows inside a barn

UW researchers devise a new way to monitor heat stress.

As extreme heat gripped much of the world in summer 2023, farmers tried to keep cows from overheating with electricity-gobbling barn fans and misting machines that sucked thousands of gallons of water. To develop a smarter and less expensive alternative, a team of UW–Madison researchers is using an innovative electrical device called an eTag to monitor the temperature of individual cows in real time and gain a better understanding of their behavior under stress.

“The overarching objective of this project is to detect and mitigate heat stress in dairy cattle, because it is a daunting challenge in terms of economics, animal welfare, and environmental aspects,” says Younghyun Kim, former UW associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Kim and his team implanted temperature sensors about the size of a rice grain at the base of the cows’ necks. Connected to small devices clipped to the animals’ ears, the sensors delivered real-time temperature data every five minutes. Every time the cows visited the milking parlor, wireless charging coils recharged the devices.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to take the eTags out of the equation and develop a low-cost system that relies only on cameras in barns to identify overheated cows. They could be integrated into a smart barn system that automatically deploys cooling measures for individual cows or zones of a barn, reducing both electricity and water costs.

Published in the Spring 2024 issue


No comments posted yet.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *