Bolus spy in the cow’s rumen keeps the farmer informed

The eCow electronic bolus that monitors pH and temperature in the rumen has won the award for innovation in the 2014 Farm Business Cream Awards, which recognise the best success stories in the UK dairy industry.

Designed for use by commercial dairy farms, it gives 5-6 months of continuous accurate pH readings.

The bolus stands upright in the rumen, for optimum pH measurement.

Data is stored in it until downloaded to the eCow handset, and uploaded to the data servers of eCow, which is based in Devon.

If correctly interpreted, the pH and temperature data can allow improvements in milk yield and animal health.

In case studies, one UK farmer saved 70p per cow per day by removing a minor food ingredient from the diet that raised rumen pH.

In a grazing situation, one farmer responded to the bolus data by changing his fence-moving routine, which optimised rumen pH and raised milk yields.

Several farmers detected irregularities in rumen pH probably caused by changes in feed offered to the cows by different farm staff.

By studying the daily range of pH, the mean daily pH, and the number of feeds per day, eCow experts can advise farmers what changes to make.

Maintenance of rumen health has become important on beef and dairy farms due to natural forage-based diets being replaced with mixed rations including high starch grains, which cause health issues, such as SARA (sub acute ruminal acidosis).

The eCow electronic bolus data can allow early warning of the onset of SARA and improved decisions on use of supplements such as rumen buffers.


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