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Reducing Antibiotic Use and Boosting Calf Growth with WellCalf at Godminster Farm

As consumers become increasingly aware of the importance of animal welfare and sustainable farming practices, farmers are looking for innovative ways to improve the health and wellbeing of their livestock. Smartbell, a UK-based agtech company, has developed a cutting-edge solution that helps farmers monitor the health of their calves with ease and precision: WellCalf, a health monitoring system specialized for calves.

WellCalf is a smart health monitor in the form of an eartag that can detect the onset of fever, pneumonia, and other diseases early. It can be applied from birth and works by constantly gathering information on activity and ear temperature. Data is sent through a receiver situated on-farm to the cloud. This information is analyzed, and if the calf is showing early signs of disease, then an alert is sent directly to the farmer through a mobile app, allowing prompt examination and intervention.

Calf pneumonia is one of the most common problems on farms, with an estimated 70% of all calves being affected. The average cost per case is £70, with lung damage causing poorer growth rates as well as longer-term effects on fertility and milk yield. WellCalf can detect pneumonia up to 2 days before clinical signs, helping to intervene early and improve recovery for calves. Early intervention also reduces viral load within the environment, helping to reduce the spread of disease within a group.

Godminster farm in Somerset, an award-winning organic dairy farm that specializes in cheese production, uses WellCalf for rearing healthy heifers. The tags were used to monitor the heifer calves, as well as recording treatments and weight records within the app. One of their key goals is to minimise antibiotic usage as much as possible. The additional behaviour information available through the app helped to not only detect pneumonia cases earlier but to decide whether it could be treated with only an anti-inflammatory or if an antibiotic was needed immediately. They could also track the recovery of the animal to understand if further intervention was required.

The weight graphs within the app have made it much easier for them to see the growth rates of calves and pick out those which are underperforming. A full animal history is available on the app, building an understanding of the causes of slower growth rates. This helps to drive future decision making and brings focus to future improvements.

One of the key benefits of WellCalf is the data analytics that are provided through the mobile app. Within the app, dashboards show key information presented in an accessible format. This includes a calendar view to visualize how disease pressure varies throughout the year, as well as graphs to show differences in weight gain and other performance measures between groups. When information is entered, all graphics are immediately updated, allowing an instant review of performance and making it easier to use the data to drive decision-making.

In conclusion, WellCalf is a cutting-edge solution that helps farmers monitor the health of their calves with ease and precision. By using this innovative technology, farmers can detect diseases early, reduce the spread of disease within a group, and improve the health and wellbeing of their livestock. The mobile app provides valuable data analytics, which can help farmers make informed decisions and drive future improvements. As a result, WellCalf is poised to play a crucial role in the future of sustainable and ethical farming practices.