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Fitbits for cows: A&M researcher milks new technology for higher yields, happier cows
Dr. Barbara Jones and Fitbits for Cows Dr. Barbara Jones says that digitally tracking the movement of dairy cows helps producers take better care of their herds.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — More than half of Americans now track their daily activities with some kind of wearable device in an effort to stay healthy.

In the future, so will most dairy cows.

Researchers at Tarleton State University’s Southwest Regional Dairy Center in Stephenville say that digitally tracking diary cows’ eating, sleeping and other movements helps them take better care of the herd they milk three times a day.

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“We have two fitbits on every cow,” said Dr. Barbara Jones, director of the largest university dairy operation in the Southwest. “They help us to monitor their health, and to keep them content. And that matters to us because we truly do care about cows, as all producers do.”

One of the wearable devices monitors how long the cows eat, how long they lay down or how many steps they take. The other is networked with the milk parlor, allowing researchers to track precisely how much milk each of the cows give.

The data alerts dairy producers when a cow may not be feeling well, before she shows it, allowing them to segregate the ill cow for treatment.

It also frees up time for dairy producers, who can tend to other business instead of monitoring their therd visually.

Only about 10 percent of dairy farmers use wearable technology now. But as labor costs rise, you can expect more dairy producers to take the technological leap, Jones said.

“The research we do here helps to make sure the cows stay content and happy,” Jones said. “That not only benefits the animal, it makes life easier for the producer, and allows them to make better decisions on the farm.”

About The Texas A&M University System

The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.7 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the Texas A&M System educates more than 153,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $996 million in FY 2017 and helped drive the state’s economy.

About Tarleton State University

Tarleton, founding member of The Texas A&M University System, provides a student-focused, value-driven education marked by academic innovation and a dedication to transform today’s scholars into tomorrow’s leaders. It offers degree programs to more than 13,000 students at Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian, RELLIS Academic Alliance in Bryan, and online, emphasizing real-world learning experiences that address societal needs while maintaining its core values of tradition, integrity, civility, excellence, leadership and service.


Contact: Dr. Barbara Jones

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Dr. Barbara Jones and Fitbits for Cows

Dr. Barbara Jones says that digitally tracking the movement of dairy cows helps producers take better care of their herds.