by Chelsea Empet, Susquehanna County Dairy Ambassador

It’s a new year, which means New Year’s resolutions. Many people make fitness goals in the new year and do so with the help of a Fitbit. Not only are Fitbits great for people, they’re great for cows too.

Much like how a person wears a Fitbit to track their health, heart rate, steps and sleep, farmers use Fitbits to track their cows. A farmer can use a cow’s Fitbit or activity monitor to gain insight into cow health and activity. Activity monitors are used to continuously monitor cow behavior 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Activity monitors are used for several reasons, some of which include identifying when a cow is ill, detecting changes in behavior, predicting when a cow is going into heat or estrus and monitoring cow comfort through eating patterns, location, resting time, predicting when a cow is going to calve and body temperature.

Now that you know what a cow’s activity monitor can do, you are probably asking “How do they work?” A cow’s Fitbit – either a neck collar, leg bracelet or ear tag – syncs wirelessly to a network box. The network box then sends a signal to the cellular tower which sends the data to the cloud. The cloud then syncs all of the data to the farm’s devices so that they can track the cow on a phone, a computer or another handheld device.

There are many brands of activity monitors but some of the popular ones are Sensehub SCR, Afi Act II, Cow Scout, Heat Watch II, MooMonitor+, Track a Cow, Activity Meter System and CowManager. No matter which brand a farmer uses, they all supply the farmer with many benefits. One benefit of activity monitors is that they act as the farmer’s eyes even when the farmer isn’t there. They also reduce labor and time for monitoring cows and improve pregnancy rates through better heat detection and timed breeding. By detecting illness earlier, cow health improves by reducing the time and expense needed to properly treat a sick cow. Additionally, the farmer can know when to check on a cow that is close to calving.

Several years ago, my family started using Fitbits on our cattle and they have made a difference in our overall herd performance.

In the end, Fitbits can help both humans and farmers stay on track by monitoring health.