Cutting antibiotic use with smart technology  

By spotting diseases earlier, the antibiotic treatment days in dairy cows can be reduced. This was shown in a new trial where cows were equipped with and without smart technology.  

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week and November 18 marks at the European Antibiotic Awareness Day, aiming to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. Reducing antibiotics in livestock is part of this global mission.   

Field trial at commercial dairy farms  

At Connecterra we believe in the use of predictive intelligence for early detection of diseases to reduce the use of antibiotics. Because when sick (or about to become sick) animals are spotted and treated earlier, less treatment days with veterinary medicine (including antibiotics) are needed. In the trial, the use of Connecterra’s Intelligent Dairy Assistant (IDA) was tested on two commercial dairy farms (Belgium and the Netherlands). Both farms in the trial had a herd of 100 cows, from which 50 cows were equipped with IDA. “IDA uses sensor technology, cloud computing and artificial intelligence to support dairy farmers with insights on estrus and health management. IDA analyses cow behaviour (originating from a 3D accelerometer on a neck collar) and herd patterns and learns from the farmer’s feedback. This makes it a great tool to optimise breeding, health and overall management of the cow herd. And in this trial, researchers looked if it effects the total antibiotic use as well”, explains Niels Rutten, industry specialist and researcher at Connecterra.   

Less treatment days with IDA

The trial lasted for 12 months and antibiotic use was monitored as the number of days that a cow was treated in the past year. The collected data in the trial period showed that treatments with antibiotics were 1.15 days shorter on farm 1 in the cows that were equipped with IDA. For farm 2, the IDA cows showed a reduction of 2.60 days, compared to the cows that were not equipped with IDA. “We showed that the use of antibiotics was consistently lower for the group with IDA than for the group without IDA. On average the treatment with antibiotics in the without IDA group took twice as long as the with IDA group. One of the farmers for example noted that IDA detected a cow with E. coli earlier than the farmer did for cows without IDA. This means that the farmer started treatment earlier and a shorter treatment than normal was sufficient”, explains Rutten.  

Positive effect on treatment effectiveness  

This field trial does provide some first indications of the value that sensors have for early detection and treatment of diseases. The lower antibiotics use for the group with IDA and the farmer feedback indicate that sensor monitoring could have a positive effect on the treatment effectiveness for dairy cows. “Next to the great experiences from the farmers around the world who have been using IDA for quite some time, we continue to do field trials like this to show that IDA can help the farmer in improving animal health, production, efficiency and sustainability and learn how we can provide even better management support”, Rutten concludes.  

The trial was part of the Horizon 2020 project Internet for Food and Farm (IoF2020). The results have been published in a peer-reviewed paper by researchers from Wageningen Livestock Research, Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Science and Connecterra. The original paper was presented at the 9th European Conference on Precision Livestock Farming (ECPLF) in Cork, Ireland (26-29 aug, 2019).  

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For media enquiries and /or the original paper, please contact: 
Emmy Koeleman, Global Market Communications Manager
Email: emmyk@connecterra.io
Tel: +31 (0)6 100 62 663.