Ranchers using drones to keep cattle healthy

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- Each year, millions of cows in the United States die from health problems and it’s costing the cattle industry, but “eyes in the sky” could help ranchers solve the problem.

Joshua Jackson flies a drone to help monitor a herd of cattle from high above his Central Kentucky ranch.

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“There’s a lot of potential for using drones on the farm and it covers a lot more ground than we ever could,” Jackson said.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also known as stem, is benefiting cattle farmers. They’re using technology, like drones.

“We can actually use this for monitoring animals, but for health wise, we can look for pink eye. We can look for volume in the field,” Jackson said.

He is both a cattle producer and agriculture professor, at the University of Kentucky. He is doing an experiment to see if drones cause adverse effects or stresses on cattle.

“So what we do, from a physiological stand point, we are looking at the heart rate. Is there a change in heart rate? Do they see the drone. Are they freighted? Do they have an elevated heart rate? And behavior, we actually put a GPS on the cows. We measure how much do they run or do they run from a drone?”

Here’s what he found.

“They actually became acclimated, even from the first week on, to having a presence of a drone…we haven’t seen a dramatic change in either behavior or heart rate,” Jackson said.

He is even exploring the benefits of using more than one drone.

“Using multiple drones, multiple pictures, and angles, stitch that together, create a 3D model, and use that to estimate the weight win the field, without ever running them across the scale,” Jackson explained.

Bottom line, the “t” in stem, technology, continues to help farmers improve productivity.

If you are interested in using a drone, there are regulations you will need to follow. You can learn more about those regulations at faa.gov.

Once there, click on drones/unmanned aircraft systems.