Super cows

 Super cows

Three cows, three farms and 30 days: a project on connecting cows with consumers by using sensory technologies and social media tools.

Date:

Thu, 05 Oct 2017

Source:

Make Innovation Happen

(image source: superkuehe.wdr.de)

 A cow’s life, recorded in the form of data-based diaries, live chats and live videos on Facebook, Twitter and TV, is currently being investigated in Germany.  

The industrialised mass production of the animal husbandry; the concern of repetitive food scandals; the alienation of the consumer view of farming from the modern farming systems and the consumers emotional attachment to animals, means there is a lack of transparency and lack of knowledge available for consumers about the modern-day food supply chain. 

This uncertainty and information asymmetry has led to a greater interest of consumers to be better informed about the modern food production. Animal welfare issues and the rising concern of the modern dairy sector are aspects consumers are increasingly worried about. To meet consumer demand of shaping a more transparent way of farming, one innovation could be the 24/7 documentation of selected dairy cows providing a variety of information to consumers via social media channels. It is an innovation to improve a farmer’s image, to contribute to a better knowledge-transfer to consumers and to strengthen the trust of consumers relating to dairy farming.

Giving dairy cows a ‘voice’

The pioneering interactive media project called ‘Superkühe’ is taking place in Germany and being broadcasted on the public channel WDR using cameras and sensors, including sensors in each cow’s stomach, to track the lives of dairy cows over 30 days. The aim is to investigate three different named cows from different farming systems – Uschi living on an organic farm, Emma representing a small-scale family farm and Connie living on a large-scale conventional farm.

Every cow is keeping an individual diary, containing data on how much milk they produce, how much they drink and eat, how far they walk each day and data on body temperature, pH balance in the stomach and the milk quality to keep track of their health status and wellbeing. Furthermore, they selected cows who are close to giving birth, all of which can be watched live on screen too. 

The videos provide a range of different aspects of the life of a dairy cow: milking, feeding, the fertilisation process, a pregnancy test, calves getting ear marks, the dehorning process, harvest processes, testing inhibitors in milk and specific interviews with researchers and vets. Consumers have access to track the cows 24/7 and have the opportunity to ask any questions about controversial subjects by using the chatbot tied to Facebook’s messenger app. The project provides a proactive and entertaining approach by conveying information through an interactive participation and real day-to-day recordings of a cow’s life.

Innovation opportunities

Anti-dairy campaigns are increasing throughout the UK and consumers are increasingly concerned about the modern dairy production. If the project ‘Superkühe’ has an impact on the perception of dairy farming and contributes to a better understanding of the modern food production, it could be an opportunity for the dairy industry in Scotland to apply similar projects with the aim of improving the image of the dairy sector. Some organisations already use marketing campaigns to promote a transparent dairy production using videos and social media channels. Connecting urban shoppers to farmers is essential to improve the negative image the dairy sector currently has. There is potential to apply this innovation to other livestock in future as well.

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