Livestock represents one of the fastest growing segments of the wearable tech market. Now you can track your herd’s vital statistics via smartphone, pinpoint the location of a stray calf with a GPS collar, and get notified with a text message when old Bessie goes into heat.
According to Sensors magazine, the market for wearable technology for animals is expected to grow from around $1 billion currently to $2.5 billion by 2025. The trend is part of the larger movement toward precision agriculture, where technology is woven into every aspect of a farmer’s life: GPS-guided tractors that drive themselves, robotic milking machines, and other such things have passed from the realm of agricultural sci-fi to practically status quo in the world of industrial agriculture.
The question smaller, diversified producers may be asking themselves is: One, can I afford to get into the precision ag game? And two, is it even relevant to me? Like robotic milkers, wearable electronic devices for livestock are largely designed with the needs of mega-dairies and CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) in mind, but they can be used in ways that fit with a holistic and sustainable approach. And unlike today’s fanciest tractors which can come with a six-figure price tag, it’s possible to get started with wearable livestock technology for less $1,000.
Information from wearable devices is typically collected by solar-powered receivers mounted throughout a barn or paddock, which transmit the data to a central server. You can then view the data on your own custom dashboard, accessible from your office computer or on a mobile device. The idea is to save time and money in labor costs and vet visits, while more effectively managing your animals. As one precision ag manufacturer exclaims on their website, wearable tech is also about giving you the “freedom to enjoy your social life.”
As a new, unrefined area of technology, it could also add a lot of complexity to your farming operation and result in more headaches than anything else. But in theory, there is value in the information wearable devices can provide.
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