The first installation and test of the real time positioning system, CowView, was completed in May 2014 at the INRA research farm of Theix, France. The system is able to supply ‘24-7-365’ surveillance and recording of cow indoor whereabouts and will be used in animal welfare studies under the EU-PLF project running until end of 2016.
The research farm of Theix has a dairy barn facility equipped for extensive studies on cows. The facility can house approximately 48 cows in a loose housing system with cubicles, separate feeding boxes with electronic weights for the recording of feed intake, and other technologies installed for the recording of methane emissions and water intake. It is expected that adding the CowView system will increase research perspectives for both the INRA institute and the business partner, GEA Farm Technologies, and thereby strongly support further development of the CowView application.
The installation of the system hardware was completed on the first week of April 2014. In short, this includes mounting of tags in cow neck collars, and installation of an infrastructure of sensors within the barn and of a local appliance. Cows positions are calculated using triangulation of passive signals sent from the tags, recorded by the sensors, and passed on to a central processor (hub). At Theix dairy barn, the wooden separation of the individual feeding boxes and the limited height of the ceiling challenged optimal coverage. This was, however, partially compensated for through software adjustments.
In May 2014 INRA scientists started to work with data produced by the system (logging of positions and behavioural activities). Due to the large amount of data, INRA made their own script to organize data into acceptable file sizes when logging. Furthermore, new developments in data management and analytical procedures have been started. The results of their first tests show that the wooden separations between the feeding boxes continue to cause displacement of cow position in front of the feeding boxes, that drinkers shall be spatially separated from the feeding table to accurate differentiate between feeding and drinking, and that it is necessary to secure correct placement of tags in neck collars.
Later this year, the CowView installation at Theix will be dismounted and re-installed at the new research facility under construction, at Marcenat, in Monts d’Auvergne. This facility will house 168 cows and include even more technology e.g. in-line milk analyses. Experiences from the first tests with CowView at Theix have resulted in ongoing testing of alternative materials to be used as separations of the individual feeding boxes.