Small-scale livestock farming directly helps the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of the world’s poorest countries. These small family run farms have demonstrated an ability to be effective in assisting families in escaping poverty and minimizing effects of local economic downturns. Encouraging and supporting livestock farming for the poor have shown to lift families out of mere subsistence living to a more stable long-term economic future.
While not just providing rural families with a more reliable and sustainable food supply, livestock farming can have the follow-on benefits to the local community by providing a local food supply, local jobs and additional side industries related to livestock production. Surplus of dairy and beef products produced by these small farms can be the sole income for many families and is critical to their survival.
A significant portion of families living in poverty in rural areas already keep livestock but struggle with various problems to maintain and grow their herds. Some of the problems faced by small producers are how to develop more efficient animal feeding management, health and breeding regimes to increase their herd productivity and managing larger herds with limited labor and infrastructure resources. In many of these rural settings being able to make productive use of range lands or other land which otherwise has negligible value as a cropping environment for graving of livestock would have a huge impact on the ability to increase the size of the herd which is key for improving farming productivity.
Most of these small-scale farms are family run and have limited labor resources with little to no fenced paddocks which limits the size of the herds that can be effectively managed. If these farms could graze their animals in larger and remote paddocks without having to worry about the individual animals’ health and their current location could really impact the farms sustainability.
To assist these small-scale farms Smart Paddock is developing smart ear tags for livestock that provide real-time information to farmers about the health status, behaviour, and accurate geo-location of all the animals in their herd. Utilizing IoT data straight from the animals while out grazing, the system will track the bio-metric information on each animal and give feedback to the farmer on several key factors: animal health, well-being and accurate location with geo-fencing alerting if the animals stray from their designated pastures. This data allows the farmer to increase farm productivity and yields by tracking and then eliminating lower producing animals from the herd, permitting the use of higher quality pasture that may be in more remote locations and lower the need for more labor. These tags will also alert farmers to animals that show early signs of illness so they can take proactive measures to to save the animals lives which lowers the overall mortality rates in the herd. Preventing deaths of livestock decreases the wasted water and feed used by that animal and has a huge impact on the farms overall sustainability.
To gather the data, Smart Paddock has developed the Bluebell tag which attaches securely onto the ear of each animal and monitors the temperature, mobility, and geo-location, which the producer can easily access from a mobile phone application. These tags are inexpensive, reusable and can transmit data over long distances in remote areas.
Knowing that many of these rural farms have limited or no telecommunications coverage the Smart Paddock system will provide its own solar powered network gateway that will allow the farmer to monitor their animals over 30,000 hectares of land with a single gateway.
By providing a smart ear tag to livestock farmers that allows for both the individual identification of each animal and the remote tracking and monitoring of entire herds with a simple mobile phone application could have a long-lasting and real positive impact on the livelihood of the these rural families.