A “No Scale Attached” Advancement for Weighing Cattle

Published on Mon, 06/28/2021 - 2:01pm

A “No Scale Attached” Advancement for Weighing Cattle.

 Article and photography by Elizabeth Parks, ABAC Agricultural Communication student.
 Contributor: Dr. Deidre Martin

 One visit to a water tank unlocks a wealth of information for the Beef Unit at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia.

In an age in which technology develops at an increasingly rapid pace, ClicRweight Bovine Solution is a vital tool in assisting ranchers as they adapt and evolve to ensure their operation maximizes profit potential.

With a range of special features to enhance any cattle operation, ClicRweight’s remote sensing technology begins when the animal comes to the water tank. After entering the stall, the animal’s RFID chip is scanned. The system takes hundreds of pictures and uses an algorithm to record the weight of the animal. The data is uploaded to the database in the cloud where ranchers have access to valuable information that aids in real-time decision-making.

“ClicRweight is about the future. In today’s world in agriculture, you must embrace technology or get left behind. Our approach to technology is dynamic and allows us to constantly improve,” said Joey Spicola, Chairman and CEO of ClicRtechnologies. “The feedback we are receiving from our partnership with ABAC has been very valuable and is allowing us to be better and stronger.”

The daily photos offer producers a visual representation of their herd’s progression over time. “When looking at the online portal, seeing photos of the animal makes the data seem more tangible,” said Doug Hicks, ABAC Beef Unit Manager. “Producers are more willing to incorporate a technology when they can see the direct benefit of the technology to their operation. ClicRweight opens the door to all kinds of possibilities for the future.”

A continuous stream of data allows for daily updates—specific to each animal. Having data on weight that is updated daily allows ranchers to increase the effectiveness of their management decisions. With information on average daily gain (ADG) of the cattle, ranchers can adjust water availability, target specific issues, and adjust feed consumption to correspond to the goals of the operation and have solid information on possible underlying health issues.

“Speaking from a veterinarian’s standpoint, the biggest advantage to me is seeing that cattle are drinking and keeping their water intake up. Decreased feed and water intake are often the first indicators of a health issue that is developing. Because we as their health care experts are not standing there 24 hours a day, we miss that critical signal that something is in its early stages of ‘not normal’ with the cattle,” said Dr. Mary Ellen Hicks, ABAC Professor of Animal Science. “If I can have early detection on subclinical problems in our developing heifers, I can work with those heifers to correct health problems earlier which keeps them on track with their weight gain.”

ClicRweight’s special features are not limited to weighing alone. “I can see the advantages of using the system to administer external parasite control sprays for horn fly and face fly control,” said Dr. Hicks. She added that ranchers can potentially set up a spraying schedule with regulations for how much and how often cattle are sprayed.
 Access to more data points is a plus in the production process but understanding how to use it to improve operations is equally important.

“We are able to take a big step forward as an industry any time that we can get technology successfully used on a farm or ranch. Technology can be a scary thing for many producers. They can see it as new, unreliable, and they just don’t have time to invest in learning how it works or how to fix it,” said Dr. Erin Porter, ABAC Associate Professor of Agricultural Engineering. “The best thing about the ClicR system is the frequency of data collection. Ranchers are able to get multiple data points on each individual animal to really track how that animal is progressing.”

To ensure producers can keep years of cataloged data, industry leaders like ClicRtechnologies must steadily develop effective ways to interface with the data. “An exciting addition currently being developed is adding in the ancestry of the cattle to include a wide range of data points from weights, purchase and selling price, and vaccine history,” said Richard Ledbetter, Information Technology Manager at ClicRtechnologies. “We are also working with our customers to make sure their other systems for tracking and financial data will interface with the ClicR system.”

The possibilities are limitless going forward, according to Dr. Porter. “I can definitely see this system having the potential to expand using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques to diagnose medical issues in livestock. The system is already capturing thousands of pictures of the animals,” she said. “This is all fantastic data that can be used to train the machine on how to spot issues that are abnormal. With the right algorithms, we could diagnose medical conditions that present themselves physically (pinkeye, swelling, abscesses, etc.) quickly and efficiently to get the animal the care it needs with the least amount of stress.”

Accumulation of data is key to technology’s effectiveness. Gathered data can then be turned into applicable practices. “Nature is messy and provides producers with a ton of uncontrollable variables. Using technology to minimize these variables or to measure the response to these variables helps producers to know how to manage their systems more effectively,” said Dr. Porter.

The ClicRweight Bovine Solution allows ranchers to integrate twenty-first-century technology into an industry that is as old as the earth itself. By the year 2050, projections are that farmers and ranchers will need to produce 70% more food to meet the demands of the world’s growing population. Precision agriculture such as ClicRweight will be a driving force to meet this demand “Til the cows come home.”

This article is the third in a series of six articles discussing the implementation of ClicRweight technology at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. The next editions include a focus on animal health, agribusiness applications, and a final reflection on the project.