Since the first feedlots began to appear in the 1940s, operators have managed their cattle as a herd rather than as individuals. Many operations have thousands of animals and therefore, no time or money could justify monitoring animals individually. Feedlots are simply too big.
As IoT and big data technologies have taken off in recent years, many feedlot operators are now pushing for a solution to single animal management. As a result, a new category of technology, called Precision Livestock Monitoring (PLF), was born. PLF’s sole purpose is to equip livestock producers with smart technology that monitors their individual animals 24/7, no matter how big the operation.
Managing single animals is the key to elevating herd performance to the next level. Rather than making a decision for the herd, feedlot operators can make decisions that are best for each and every animal. It allows them to focus on the problem animals and take the necessary steps to improve their productivity, welfare, and health.
For example, without PLF, a feedlot operator cannot track individual feeding behaviors. They can see that a pen’s feed bunk is empty first thing in the morning, but they have no way to tell if every animal in the pen received its fair share of grain. If they had this knowledge, they could see animals who skipped a few meals, indicating they have a high likelihood of illness, injury, or distress. Then they could quickly respond to the issue and give the animal the care it needs to be healthy and productive.
The basic framework of a PLF system includes smart sensors, data analysis, and software. Sensors track the cattle 24/7 and send the data to a server where rapid analysis is performed. The analyzed data is then presented to the feedlot operator so they can make improvements to their animals and operations.
HerdWhistle is a type of PLF system using RFID sensors that extend the entire length of a feedlot’s feed bunks, and attach above every water trough. It operates 24/7 to detect each individual cattle’s RFID ear tags as they eat and drink. Every animal generates thousands of data points per day showing their exacting feeding and drinking behaviors. HerdWhislte then analyzes and compares the data with the animal’s past behavior and the behavior of the whole herd. HerdWhistle uses its analysis to determine if an animal needs care from feedlot staff.
HerdWhistle works passively across the entire feedlot, monitoring every single animal for the feedlot operator. It delivers the insights operators need to improve the performance of problem animals, and ultimately the entire herd.