Advancing the Future of the Cattle Industry Through Technology

Published on Thu, 05/20/2021 - 9:17am

Advancing the Future of the Cattle Industry Through Technology.

 By Dr. Deidre Martin. Photography by Landon Rowe and Josie Smith.

 "You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is a statement that holds true every day to Doug Hicks as he works with the cattle at the Beef Unit at the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College farm.

With a successful track record in the swine and alligator industries, Hicks believes that the ClicRweight Bovine Solution provides a definite advantage for providing real-time information that allows for data-driven management decisions which will lead to more effective and efficient cattle operations.

The current method of weighing cattle with conventional gravity scales at a central location is time-consuming and labor-intensive with the effort required to round up and transport the animals to a weighing station. The cost and stress impact on the animal’s value can also be significant. ClicRweight’s revolutionary livestock weighing technique is a game changer for cattle ranches.

The ClicRweight system works by reading a RFID chip in the cattle’s ear while a 3D camera positioned above the stall takes hundreds of pictures while the animal is drinking from a water tank. The data from the photographs is then available through a login unique to your herd in the ClicRweight Bovine Solution Dashboard. Users are then able to sort and review the data based on several information points.

Chairman and CEO of ClicRtechnologies, Joey Spicola, Sr., believes that the operational benefits tie directly into the importance of making data-driven decisions which is a critical step in the next evolution of the cattle industry.

“We are committed to enhancing the lives of our users as we constantly refine and improve upon our proprietary and patented technology and 3D imaging,” said Spicola. “The application of our technology not only changes the method in which our customers weigh their livestock, it also increases the frequency of weighing them and provides additional data points for managing their operations. We are laser-focused on delivering a superior product and providing exceptional services to our customers.”

Key operational benefits of the Bovine solution are focused on maximizing revenue when it comes to weighing and maintaining systems including:
• Reducing manpower and eliminating transportation for weighing
• Relieving stress to the animals that can lead to weight loss, injury or death
• Connecting your decision making to market-driven decisions
• Having a solid source of historical data about your herd

With the new installation, Hicks is working closely with the ClicRweight staff to determine the best ways to make use of the technology given the herd instincts of cattle.

“It has been interesting to have the cattle begin entering the stalls for water. At first, they were both curious and nervous. To help them make the adjustment, I moved a stock tank up closer to the installation as well as my mineral feeder to draw them closer,” said Hicks. With the current setup, one stock tank watering station is designed to accommodate 50 animals.

Hicks has been actively involved in providing feedback and insights to the ClicRweight team regarding his experience utilizing the technology including the best ways to set up the watering stations given the herd habits, optimum water levels in the tanks to efficiently read the ear tags, and other issues such as animals in heat or smaller calves entering and exiting the installation.

According to Hicks, he is confident that the use of technology will grow when it comes to cattle. “The ClicRweight Bovine Solution is one more important tool in our toolkit to maximize our operation to provide a meaningful learning experience and demonstrate best practices. My students have already started thinking of additional ways to use the technology and other features that could be included.”

ABAC Assistant Professor of Agricultural Engineering Dr. Alex McLemore agrees and states, “Cameras provide detailed information in either 2D or 3D. Our brains are accustomed to thinking about problems and solutions in this space.”

McLemore added, “As the barrier to camera technology, especially 3D systems, become lower and advances in computer models evolves, I suspect we will see numerous impacts in the near future.  ClicRweight’s system provides information so quickly and frequently that we can identify trends faster than traditional systems. Being a cloud connected system makes it easier for many users to access the information.”

Hicks said that while some may be skeptical of something new, the ClicRweight Bovine Solution is very easy to use. “Investing in technology can come up against resistance such as concerns about cost, doubts if it will really work, fear of technology, and privacy. But with the ClicRweight system, you do not have to be a computer expert,” Hicks said. “You just have to know how to access a website. I even use it on my cell phone.”

Investment in technology is as important as investing in people or equipment according to McLemore. He said, “Technology provides the opportunity to make operations more efficient and generate data that can answer questions. Sometimes there are questions we do not even know to ask because we have not had such detail about a specific system.”

Dr. Katheryn Cerny, Assistant Professor of Animal Science at ABAC, says, “The ClicRweight technology provides an exciting opportunity to use technology to make data-driven decisions in real-time. Being able to actually ‘see’ the cattle every day and review their growth curves will allow for a more efficient operation where identification of superior/inferior animals can occur with more frequency and accuracy.”

Having this data point when making decisions will help in knowing when to send to market, which animals to select and which to cull. The website housing all the collected data is also enhanced by information on market prices from local stockyards.

An exciting part of the partnership between ClicRtechnologies and ABAC is the opportunity to involve students and faculty in practical projects as well as hands-on class experiences.

“I am excited about using this technology and the resulting data in my Food Animal Evaluation and Selection class,” said Dr. Cerny, “Utilizing the ClicRweight data along with other established tools will provide a much more robust experience for our students. Some of the utilizations I envision are with body condition scoring and monitoring growth curves. I am also excited about the possibility of analyzing carcass data reports from our feedlot partners to determine quality and yield rates along with average daily gains to see how that can tie to marketing decisions.”

McLemore sees two major opportunities for students he teaches at ABAC. “First is the hardware side of ClicR. The system in the field is a great example of how different sensors and networks can be combined to collect information,” he said. “Secondly, the data management side of the ClicR aligns very well with how I am preparing students to interact with and make decisions supported by data. The intent is not to teach students to blindly accept what technology ‘tells’ them, but to understand how to interpret and derive value from the information technology provides.”

The future of the cattle industry is very dependent on the use of technology and ClicRtechnologies is dedicated to continuing to develop and grow the applications as the industry grows and changes.

The next four issues of American Cattlemen Magazine will focus on: special features (programmable spraying, daily photos, daily weights), nutrition and health, and economics (turn the ranch faster, mark animals when they are at shipping weight). The final article will be a summary of conclusions reflecting six months of experience the professors and students have gained and what insights came with it. We hope you will find value in this inside look at the latest technology to emerge in the livestock industry. Follow this series on social media and in future issues of this magazine.

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