Wireless technology nips beef troubles in the ear
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—Beta tests have been completed for a new wireless technology that may help arrest beef contamination before cattle are shipped off for slaughter.
The TekVet System, introduced by agriculture wireless technology company COLT Technologies (www.tekvet.com), is an automated radio frequency (RF) solution designed to constantly monitor the core temperature of beef cattle. "The USDA wants to track beef cattle from conception to consumption, and the only way to do that is through technology," says COLT Technologies President and CEO Tali Haleua.
TekVet eliminates the inefficiency of cowhands having to ride through a herd each day, trying to pick out sick-looking animals. Not all unhealthy cattle are identified, and TekVet inventor and former feedlot manager Lawson Smith notes that even when cattle begin showing outward signs of being sick, chances are the illness has been in effect for days.
With TekVet, however, unhealthy cattle can be detected specifically and before disease or illness has settled in. A SmartSensor, which includes a flexible thermometer, wireless transceiver and other electronic components, is attached to a steer's ear in ID-tag fashion. As the SmartSensor is applied, the flexible thermometer is inserted into the ear canal where it can monitor temperature and then wirelessly relay critical health information to the SmartManagement software.
Core body temperature is considered the most fundamental indicator of overall animal health. According to TekVet, a temperature increase of even a single degree may be an indication that the animal is either already or about to be sick. Early identification can lead to effective treatment and reduce the risk of infection to the rest of the herd.
The system immediately reports on any changes in body temperature below 99 degrees F or above 103.5 degrees F. If a steer's temperature reaches critical levels, an alarm is sent to the control unit, pinpointing the location and tag number of the infected animal.
"The system also greatly increases the ability to identify major disease outbreaks, such as shipping disease, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and Mad Cow disease," notes Larry Roberts, chief engineer and product designer.
Future versions of TekVet, now under development, will also measure blood pH, heart rate and other vital signs. The technology may also be broadened to assist other livestock industries, such as pork.
Initial pricing for the system, based on number of cattle per feedlot, is expected to be $39.95 or lower per steer.