In the growing branch of dairy goat farming, technological advancements are necessary to improve the accuracy and scope of health monitoring. The Bolucap project will develop a permanent, in-body bolus – an ingestible capsule – capable of collecting data on the health of individual animals. This data will lead to actionable advice on how to improve daily livestock management. The goal is to optimize nutrition and subsequently maximize the business-economic margins of the farm.
The dairy goat sector has seen a large growth over the last decade. Typical goat farms in Belgium and the Netherlands now manage over 1.000 animals each, requiring a professional approach to business management. To maximize farm profitability and production efficiency, farmers strive for optimal animal health and nutrition. However, common metabolic diseases, like ketosis or ruminal acidosis, can decrease milk production up to 35%, leading to significant economic losses.
Because of the increasing herd sizes, it has become nearly impossible to monitor individual animals. Goat farms could greatly benefit from an automatic health monitoring system that identifies problems early on, so that farmers can take appropriate measures. However, no such product exists for goats. There are commercial sensor boluses available for cows, but these are too large for goats. Because a goat’s rumen is significantly different from that of a cow, these boluses cannot simply be miniaturized.
The Bolucap project aims to develop a health monitoring system specifically for goats. A permanently placed bolus in the rumen will register metabolic parameters such as body temperature, movement, behavior, food intake and rumen pressure. The collected data will then be transmitted to a gateway installed on site at the farm. This will provide insights into the health status of individual goats and will lead to actionable advice for farmers on how to optimally manage livestock.
Both hardware (the bolus) and software (data analytics and agricultural advice) will be developed within the context of two key applications.
First, a group of lactating goats will be monitored to gather data on food intake, behavior and general health. Anomalies in the signal goats will advise the farmer on how to modify daily management. Second, the metabolic states of a sample of goats in the perilous pre- and postpartum period will be monitored. Insights gained through this data will lead to improved livestock management, better animal health and welfare. Use of the Bolucap is anticipated to increase the revenue of a single farm by between €20,000 and €37,000, and as much as €75,000 for a low-performing farm.
“The Bolucap project will develop a health monitoring system via an ingestible bolus which measures the metabolic parameters of individual goats, leading to actionable advice to optimize daily livestock management and farm revenue.”