Dairy farmers turn to video game experts in order to enhance cow health

Dairy farmers and vets have enlisted the help of video gaming experts to enhance cow health in a unique new study.

The Innovate UK-funded SmARtview research project sees Agri-EPI Centre and UK Veterinary Group VetPartners join forces with experts at award-winning games developer Pocket Sized Hands and Abertay University’s School of Design and Informatics.

The project aims to develop an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based system that can recognise a cow by its skin patterns and use a ‘hololens’ Augmented Reality (AR) headset to display health and productivity data about an animal as a user views it.

Agri-EPI’s innovative South West Dairy Development Centre is the project test-bed.

Agri-EPI head of dairy Duncan Forbes explained:

By using the type of technology that is becoming extremely advanced in the video gaming world, we hope to be able to take the care and treatment of dairy cattle into a new era.

“The beauty of this project is that it combines farmers’ and vets’ experienced ‘eyes’ with real-time data, which means technology is being used to enhance, rather than replace, human skills.

“In addition, SmAtview could provide a solution to one of the key challenges of on-farm technology – while different devices like robotic milkers, sensors and collars can already collect plentiful data, its lack of integration limits insight to drive decision-making.”

‘A time-consuming process’

Forbes continued:

Typically, a vet or farmer faces the time-consuming process of examining a cow then going to the farm office to review a variety of paper of PC-based records before determining what kind of intervention may be needed. SmARtview would make the whole process much more efficient and effective.

The new system will be trialled by vets and allied professional from VetPartners’ practices around the UK.

Rachel Dean, VetPartners’ Director of Clinical Research and Excellence in Practice, said:

“The farming industry is changing and VetPartners wants to support farmers through this change by offering the best capabilities in terms of health, production and welfare.

“SmARtview has huge potential for vets and allied professionals, such as foot trimmers and veterinary technicians, who work on farms of all types and sizes.

“It is a unique and very innovative project which could transform the way they practice,” she concluded.