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Sainsbury's installs AI ‘vet tech’ to improve welfare and efficiency on dairy farms
Phoebe Fraser

Phoebe Fraser

9 July 2024

Sainsbury's installs AI ‘vet tech’ to improve welfare and efficiency on dairy farms

British supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has become the ‘first retailer in the world’ to invest in new AI veterinary technology used to measure and enhance positive animal welfare on dairy farms.


In collaboration with University of Nottingham spinout company, Vet Vision AI, Sainsbury’s is trialling a new technology that has been designed to spot when cows are happy and healthy, and why. The cows are monitored using low-cost, portable cameras that can be operated by vets on multiple farms.


The tech recognises patterns in behaviour, analysing and turning video footage into accurate, real-time data. It promotes a step forward in farming efficiency as a healthy cow is a more productive cow.


Dave Bacon, dairy farmer at Gleadthorpe Farm, said: "I know that happy, comfortable cows produce more milk, but accurately measuring and knowing how to improve cow comfort can be challenging. Using Vet Vision AI, we were able to measure how comfort levels improved after we upgraded our housing and put new cow mattresses in. Knowing that my cows are more comfortable as a result means I can feel confident the investment was worth it."


The AI can advise on improving cow comfort through increased lying time, this then may lead to better leg health and more milk produced for the same amount of feed, as the cow is stronger on its hooves.


The AI also offers farmers suggestions on ways to further improve the animals’ lifestyles, including housing improvements for better comfort and animal engagement and providing enrichment such as cow brushes, similar to a back scratcher, to reduce stress.


What distinguishes this technology is its ability to show when a cow is thriving, rather than only spotting illnesses and ailments. The constant monitoring can also identify diseases early, preventing vets having to treat disease later down the line.


The new technology is currently being used on 30 of Sainsbury’s Dairy Development Group farms, with further rollout planned for 2025.


Matt Turner, vet and agriculture manager at Sainsbury’s, said: “Investing in British farming and continuously improving animal health and welfare are key priorities for us and this innovative new technology will mean we can help both farmer and animal. Our dairy farmers that are using the technology are already seeing real benefits and we look forward to expanding it to our wider network of Dairy Development Group farms soon.”


Sainsbury's installs AI ‘vet tech’

Tom Angel, veterinary surgeon at Synergy Farm Health, commented: "Vet Vision AI has allowed us to identify positive animal welfare on farms, such as increased lying times and cow comfort, as well as management factors that need addressing to improve these outputs. The use of the computer vision technology has then been able to assess the impact of any changes we have implemented, objectively revealing how the animals have responded positively to the environmental and management changes."


James Breen, professor in cattle health at the University of Nottingham, added: “I have begun to use this AI technology with dairy herd health clients as part of our routine monitoring of health and welfare. The ability of the system to observe the cows' natural behaviours without disturbing the animals, and to turn these observations into hard outcomes, is of huge value when planning interventions to improve foot health, udder health, fertility performance and so on.”


This is the latest investment in its dairy business – in September last year, Sainsbury's announced a new £6 million annual investment in its dairy farmers.


#Sainsburys #dairy #dairyfarm #UK #AI

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