KEEP FIT: CSIRO and startup Ceres Tag have created a new type of 'Fitbit' to help farmers to keep track of their livestock.
KEEP FIT: CSIRO and startup Ceres Tag have created a new type of 'Fitbit' to help farmers to keep track of their livestock. CSIRO

Technology used by runners to help herd health, reduce theft

GRAZIERS have a new tool to monitor their herd's fitness, movement and overall well-being after the CSIRO and agtech company Ceres released a 'Fitbit' for cows.

The Ceres tag is stapled to an animal's ear and monitors their movement, including both distance and speed, and in time will include information about body temperature.

This gives farmers clear data on how far their herds move each day and the amount of calories they burn.

Warwick veterinarian Ross Newman said an early warning about rising body temperature would greatly help when treating sick animals.

"Generally you are called to a sick animal once it is properly sick and it had probably had a temperature for a number of days," he said.

Checking stock temperatures is a simple process that most farmers can do by themselves but Dr Newman said many farmers didn't know how to do it.

"It's extremely uncommon, even when they are sick, you use a rectal thermometer that you can buy from a chemist," he said.

"You put it in their bum because they bite the thermometer off when you put it in their mouth."

High temperature is an indicator of a number of illnesses including three-day sickness and the clostridial illnesses such as tetanus, black leg and those covered by the five-in-one vaccine.

The Ceres tag has the added benefit of preventing stock theft as it allows farmers to track where every animal is in real time.

The aim is to save time and money compared to the costs of manually tracking herds using vehicles or aircraft.

If stock start moving at 100km/h it is a sure sign they've been stolen.

"Most people people don't find out their cattle are stolen until they muster and they're missing 30 head," Dr Newman said.

The tags are designed for improved retention and to last throughout the life of the animal in Australia's often harsh conditions. The makers aspire for it to be the world's first smart ear tag that adheres to international traceability standards such as Australia's National Livestock Identification System.

Part of the research project was funded by Meat and Livestock Australia.