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Ear tags are the focus of emerging technology in beef industry

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Johnson County Cattlewomen held their 13th Annual Women’s Ag Summit on Jan. 13 in Buffalo. The speaker lineup covered a wide variety of topics, including emerging technology in the cattle industry. 

Merck Animal Health Representative and Wyoming Cattle Territory Manager Madi Shults braved the cold to travel north and share technological changes coming to the beef industry. Brenda Siefken joined Shults via Zoom to co-present on the latest technology. 

For the feeders

Shults and Siefken kicked off the presentation by discussing Merck’s SenseHub Feedlot technology and how it is being used. 

SenseHub Feedlot is a system which tracks animal health via an ear tag. The ear tag collects information such as the temperature of the animal and animal behavior and then reports this information to a database. 

The database is able to differentiate animal temperatures, as well as abnormal behaviors, and reports the information to producers via a user-friendly online interface. 

The goal of SenseHub Feedlot is to diagnose illness days faster than when cattle behavior is being observed visually. 

“Our goal is not at all to replace pen riders, but to give them a tool to diagnose illness faster,” stated Shults. “We know cattle are prey animals, and they tend to mask their symptoms until they’re really sick. With this system, we can catch increased body temperature a couple of days earlier than the best pen rider in the world can detect droopy ears, isolation, etc.”

The database will create a “pull list” for pen riders, which outlines all of the livestock displaying an increase in temperature or notable behavior changes and need to be pulled from their respective pens to be doctored. 

Studies have been done and data proves using SenseHub in feedyards has increased the number of cattle reaching the processing plant by reducing morbidity and mortality rates. 

For the producers

Shults’ focus is the reproductive sector of Merck’s emerging technologies. SenseHub Cow Calf is soft launching this year, and it’s focus will be on cow health and cycle monitoring. 

“We want to increase reproduction rates within our cow/calf herds,” said Shults. “We can do this by monitoring and identifying females likely to come into heat, being able to keep from missing silent heats and being aware of those in anestrus.”

SenseHub Cow Calf tags work similarly to the feedlot tags in that they monitor cows’ temperature and movement. This information is sent to a similar user-friendly interface which notifies producers which cows appear to be in heat or any whose behavior is off, indicating potential illness. 

Producers who utilize artificial insemination or embryo transfer may be particularly interested in the cow/calf tags to help increase conception rates by more accurately detecting estrus, resulting in a tighter calving window. 

When relying on visual observations, producers can easily miss cows that have a “silent” heat, showing no visible indicators. With the cow/calf tags, temperature indicators can help producers identify cattle they would miss when relying on visual indicators alone. 

Tressa Lawrence is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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