Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, NTT Docomo Inc. and others plan to develop a system to monitor dairy cows using fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless networks, aiming for commercialization in 2022.

The system will use vast amounts of photographic data to detect early signs of illness and estrus in dairy cows. The aim is to ease the heavy burdens on dairy farmers blamed in part for the difficulties they face finding successors.

Also on the development team is Tsuchiya Manufacturing Co., a dairy farming equipment maker based in Sapporo.

The system will feed photographic data from cameras in cattle sheds to artificial intelligence for learning and analysis, informing farmers promptly via smartphone if there are signs of illness or estrus in cows.

The developers aim to create a sophisticated low-cost system by using 5G services, which will be available this spring, to process vast amounts of photographic data that can’t be handled by current 4G technology.

A demonstration test, underway at the university in Obihiro, will study whether the behavior of cows, such as how often they eat feed, can be captured in detail.

If cows are not milked every day they can suffer inflammation of the udder, which can lead to death. Farmers are kept busy keeping a constant eye on cattle sheds, paying attention to the condition of cows and trying not to miss opportunities for artificial insemination.

Current management systems with each cow wearing a sensor need large investments in software and other items, preventing them from being widely adopted.

Katsuya Kida, a professor at the university, said that if farmers can readily adopt the 5G-based system, “their burdens can be eased.”

“It will also help lower the hurdles for starting dairy farming,” he said.

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