When the cows will be able to talk to the farmer...

COW collars in the fairly near future will send text messages to the farmer when the animal is coming into heat, getting ready to give birth or falling ill, it is predicted.

The collars will use the kind of motion sensors used in Wii gaming to detect unusual postures and movements, combined with mobile communications technology.

The Technology Strategy Board, sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, has made a “substantial contribution” to a £1.4m project to develop the idea over three years.

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The project was proposed by a consortium including the University of Strathclyde, which has a spin-out company already working on ‘The Silent Herdsman’, and supermarket chain Morrisons, which will test developments on its Scottish farm.

Some dairy farmers are already watching their cattle using motion sensors reporting to the farm computer but the plan is for a more user-friendly system which can send out an alert whenever necessary and not just when the cow walks through a scanner.

Annette MacDougall, chief executive of the Strathclyde University spin-out company Embedded Technology Solutions Ltd, said: “The Silent Herdsman platform is a decision support tool for farmers.

“We are continuing to produce innovative solutions that are relevant for farmers today and the global dairy industry at large.”

David Alvis, speaking for the Technology Strategy Board, said: “The technologies developed through this project have the potential to benefit farming communities in the UK and around the world.”