Monitoring heat stress just stepped into the 21st century with a new app designed specifically for livestock producers.
As the Midwest suffers through its second heat wave in less than two months, dairy farmers and ranchers have one thing on their minds: their cows. Heat-stressed cattle impact a producer’s bottom line, reducing mass in beef cattle and causing a 10 to 20 percent drop in milk production for dairy cows.
A new smartphone app created by researchers at the University of Missouri will soon be available to help, according to Mid-Missouri Public Radio. The app can detect the threat of heat stress in individual animals before it starts.
The app combines environmental information with data from the animals to give producers a unique look at how the heat is affecting their animals.
“It will automatically pull in the air temperature and humidity so that the producers or student can look at this later and figure out which animals are really stressed in the heat and which ones aren’t," says Don Spiers, the project’s lead researcher.
Spiers notes that it takes roughly three days for heat stress to affect an animal’s feed intake, which then corresponds to lower body mass and a drop in milk production. The goal, according to Spiers, is to find early warning signs using techniques already known through animal research, such as counting flank movements for 30 seconds.
The most difficult aspect of the project for Spiers wasn’t the design of the app. Instead, he struggles with getting the information to producers.
“The thing that dawned on us is that we collect all this data, we publish all these papers go to scientific meetings,” Spiers told a Mid-Missouri Public Radio audience. “It’s wonderful. But, the producers aren’t using it. We said, we’ve gotta have something that will tell them right there, while they’re standing there, how how this animal is, how how that animal is, so you can make a decision, while you’re standing there and the apps are a beautiful way of doing that.”
But how do producers rate it? For Missouri dairy farmer Chris Heins, the app has been an asset in monitoring the Higginsville, Mo., dairy’s 600 cows. Heins spends a lot of his time making sure each animal in his herd is comfortable, which in triple-digit heat means keeping them cool.
Though Heins knows his cows backwards and forwards, he is supports technology that could give him even more insight into this livelihood.
““That would be a great, just monitoring device. To see how different areas of the barns are, address problem situations. Like if you had, say a certain corner of a barn that wasn’t cooling adequately, you could install an extra fan,” Heins said.
The app will be available in the iPhone App Store this fall. Sorry Android users – so far the release is set for the iPhone only.