Startups Hope to Give Cowboys an Edge in Cattle Production

Jacob Bunge reported in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal that, “Cowboys are adding algorithms to their saddle bags.

Drugmakers, startups and cattlemen are betting that sensors and data-sifting software can help keep cattle in Western U.S. feedlots healthier than cowboys can alone. New tags clipped to animals’ ears aim to monitor movement and feeding patterns for early signs of sickness.

“With low cattle prices pinching ranchers’ profits, developers believe they can save feedlots money on drugs like antibiotics and avoid treating healthy cattle. The tactic also appeals to some health officials and consumers who say antibiotics are overused.”

Mr. Bunge explained that, “Startups like Southfork Solutions Inc., Precision Animal Solutions LLC, Quantified Ag and GrowSafe Systems Ltd. are jockeying to get their sensors and tags into cattle pens, seeking to carry a data revolution in U.S. agriculture into livestock operations.”

“Developers say their monitoring systems can reduce medication costs by about 15% per animal and save more sick cattle from death. But longtime cattle hands remain leery that a computer program could tell them more about a steer than they can glean from horseback,” the Journal article said.

Mr. Bunge added that, “Quantified Ag, which analyzes animals’ mobility and temperature, invested more than $1 million to develop its system and currently charges around $18 an animal for the service, according to Vishal Singh, chief executive of the Lincoln, Neb.-based company.

“Southfork and Precision Animal Solutions are testing their systems ahead of wide-scale commercial release, and have yet to settle on pricing. Officials say the savings on drugs and labor could be meaningful as feedlots face immense profit pressure.”

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