WO2008030116A1 - Dairy platform measurement systems and methods - Google Patents

Dairy platform measurement systems and methods Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2008030116A1
WO2008030116A1 PCT/NZ2007/000258 NZ2007000258W WO2008030116A1 WO 2008030116 A1 WO2008030116 A1 WO 2008030116A1 NZ 2007000258 W NZ2007000258 W NZ 2007000258W WO 2008030116 A1 WO2008030116 A1 WO 2008030116A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
position
platform
cow
id
stall
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/NZ2007/000258
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Ross Richard Nilson
Original Assignee
Radian Technology Limited
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to NZ549795 priority Critical
Priority to NZ549795A priority patent/NZ549795A/en
Application filed by Radian Technology Limited filed Critical Radian Technology Limited
Publication of WO2008030116A1 publication Critical patent/WO2008030116A1/en

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Classifications

    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A01AGRICULTURE; FORESTRY; ANIMAL HUSBANDRY; HUNTING; TRAPPING; FISHING
    • A01KANIMAL HUSBANDRY; CARE OF BIRDS, FISHES, INSECTS; FISHING; REARING OR BREEDING ANIMALS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NEW BREEDS OF ANIMALS
    • A01K1/00Housing animals; Equipment therefor
    • A01K1/12Milking stations
    • A01K1/126Carousels
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A01AGRICULTURE; FORESTRY; ANIMAL HUSBANDRY; HUNTING; TRAPPING; FISHING
    • A01KANIMAL HUSBANDRY; CARE OF BIRDS, FISHES, INSECTS; FISHING; REARING OR BREEDING ANIMALS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NEW BREEDS OF ANIMALS
    • A01K11/00Marking of animals
    • A01K11/006Automatic identification systems for animals, e.g. electronic devices, transponders for animals

Abstract

The position of a dairy platform (1) is monitored using a compass (7). From this position and a known relationship between platform position and stall position, the position of a stall (2, 3, 4) can be determined. Cows (5) are identified using signals from RFID tags attached to the cows. These signals are monitored during a time period and the time distribution of ID reads is used to identify the time when a cow is closest to the reader (6) and to associate that cow with a particular stall in the dairy platform (1).

Description

DAIRY PLATFORM MEASUREMENT SYSTEMS AND METHODS

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates to systems and methods for determination of stock location and dairy plant performance, in relation to rotating dairy platforms.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Dairy platform position information is of use in monitoring stall position for cow- related data and platform motion for aspects of operational efficiency.

Trie most common systems determine position to a resolution corresponding to the milking stall pitch. This is typically achieved using a single stationary detector that senses a component fixed to each stall. Rotation by one stall pitch is counted when the stall component passes the stationary sensor. The sensor technology used includes electro-mechanical, optical interruption or reflection, magnetic proximity or radio frequency proximity systems.

These stall pitch resolution systems have several disadvantages.

Fittings on every stall dictate a relatively high installation and maintenance cost. In addition the technology used is vulnerable to misalignment and obstruction and reduces the system reliability.

The stall pitch resolution gives poor performance when used together with cow ID systems to determine the identity of a cow in a particular stall. The approach used for this purpose is to associate a particular cow with a particular stall from a known time and position of both the cow and the stall. The cow information is obtained from the output of a cow ID reader in a known stationary position. Unfortunately the broad distribution of the radio frequency field used for cow ID (typically a large diameter loop coil antenna) and uncertain location of the RFID tag often result in an erroneous ID reader output. The combined ID reader output and stall position uncertainties greatly reduce the system accuracy and utility. Improvements have been attempted by incorporating a "stall full" sensor, which discriminates between a full and an empty stall. This can make a marginal improvement in the case where a cow would otherwise be associated with an empty stall position.

Some improvement has been attempted by using a position encoding wheel driven from the platform mechanism to define platform position. The encoding wheel gives a much improved position resolution but incorporates significant costs in components and installation. The encoding wheel coupling is mechanical most commonly a friction drive that requires regular maintenance and limits the system reliability.

High operational efficiency is a key aim of a modern milking plant. Parameters such as platform stoppage, reversal and rotation time together with cow information such as milking time and number of rotations on platform provide useful measures of operational efficiency.

In theory, platform position sensing in combination with cow ID as already described can be used for this purpose. In practice sensor cost, resolution, maintenance and reliability issues mean that this approach has not been successfully used for this purpose.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the invention to provide systems and methods using platform position measurements and cow ID, which ameliorate the disadvantages discussed above.

It is a further object of the invention to improve the quality of information available for dairy management systems.

Each object is to be read disjunctively with the object of at least providing the public with a useful choice. In a first aspect, the invention provides a method for associating individual cows with particular rotating platform stalls including the steps of: determining stall position in time; collecting a plurality of cow ID reads in time from an ID reader device; identifying an individual cow from the collected ID reads; determining the most likely closest proximity time when the identified cow is closest to the ID reader device from the time distribution of the collected ID reads; determining the most likely stall associated with the ID reader at the most likely closest proximity time; and assigning the most likely stall to the identified cow.

In a second aspect, the invention provides a system for associating individual cows with rotating platform stalls comprising: a position measuring device configured to allow determination of stall position in time; a cow ID reader device configured to output a plurality of cow ID reads; a processor configured to: receive cow ID reads from the cow ID reader device; identify an individual cow from the received cow ID reads; determine the most likely closest proximity time when the identified cow is closest to the ID reader device from the time distribution of the received cow ID reads; determine the most likely stall associated with the cow ID reader at the most likely closest proximity time; and associate the identified cow with the most likely stall.

In a third aspect, the invention provides a method for measuring the operational performance of a milking plant having a rotating dairy platform, the method including the steps of: determining platform position in time; collecting a plurality of cow ID reads over a period of time from an ID reader; determining motion information from the platform position information; and determining performance data from the motion information and the collected cow ID reads. In a fourth aspect, the invention provides a system for measuring the operational performance of the milking plant comprising: a platform position measuring device; a cow ID reader configured to collect a plurality of cow ID reads over a period of time; and a processor configured to receive platform position information from the position measuring device and the collected cow ID reads from the ID reader, and to: determine motion information from the platform position information; and determine performance data from the motion information and the collected cow ID reads.

In a fifth aspect, the invention provides a method of determining a stall position in a rotating dairy platform, including: determining the orientation of the platform using a compass; and determining the stall position from a known relationship between stall position and platform orientation.

In a sixth aspect, the invention provides a system for determining a stall position in a rotating dairy platform, including: a compass arranged to provide an indication of the orientation of the platform; and a processor arranged to determine the stall position from a known relationship between stall position and platform orientation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will now be described by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of a system according to one embodiment and Figure 2 is a schematic diagram of a system according to a further embodiment. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of a rotating dairy platform 100. The circular platform 1 is divided into a number of stalls 2, 3, 4. Each stall is dimensioned to hold a single cow 5 while that cow is being milked. In use, a cow is driven on to the rotating platform at an entry point (not shown), a milking machine (not shown) is attached to the cow and the cow is milked while the platform rotates, taking the cow away from the entry point. At an exit point (also not shown), the machine is removed and the cow leaves the rotating platform.

Rotating dairy platforms are well-known in the dairy industry. A typical platform holds around 50 to 60 cows, although platforms of various sizes are available.

The system of figure 1 is further configured to gather data during the milking operation. Each cow 5 is fitted with a RFID tag, which may be in the form of an ear tag, anklet tag or any other suitable arrangement. Preferably, each tag uniquely identifies the cow to which it is fitted. The system includes a cow ID reader 6, which is positioned above the rotating platform 1 or at some other location so as best to read data from the RF tags passing near it. The system is thus able to identify the cows on the rotating platform 1 as they pass near the ID reader 6. Preferably, for simplicity, only a single ID reader 6 is provided and this reader is stationary.

The system also includes a digital compass 7 which rotates with the rotating platform 1 and is therefore arranged to provide an indication of the orientation of the platform 1. The compass 7 is shown at the pivot of the platform 1 , although it may be mounted elsewhere on the platform. Other means of measuring the platform orientation may also be suitable. Preferably, the orientation is determined to a high level of accuracy, preferably with a resolution of half of one stall or less, more preferably with a resolution of 2° or less.

The digital compass 7 communicates via a first antenna 8, wireless link 9 and a second antenna 10 with a processor 11. Any suitable communication protocol may be used. Similarly, a wired connection may be used, although the wireless connection shown is expected to provide greater convenience and reliability and allows the digital compass to be easily fitted to existing rotating platforms.

The cow ID reader 6 also communicates with the processor 11 , via a wired link 12. Again, a wireless link may be used.

The processor 11 therefore receives data from the cow ID reader and from the digital compass, and processes this data as described below.

The system may also include memory 13, arranged to store data for later retrieval and analysis. This allows the data to be used for monitoring system efficiency etc. The stored data may include platform position/orientation, stall position and cow ID reads. The stored data may also include performance data, which may be efficiency data such as stall occupancy rates, milking times, identification of cows or numbers of cows making two rotations on the platform rather than one, number of cows milked etc. Performance data may also include other performance characteristics such as yield data for individual cows, performance data for individual stalls (which may allow detection of malfunctions in equipment in that stall), mastitis data and any other desired performance characteristics of the plant, the herd or individual animals.

Determination of stall position

The processor 11 receives platform position data from the digital compass 7. The stalls are arranged regularly around the platform. From the orientation of the platform 1 , it is therefore possible to establish the position of any one of the stalls at a particular time or to determine3which stall occupies or is most likely to occupy a particular position at a particular time.

Preferably the digital compass sends positional information to the processor in a continuous manner. Alternatively, data may be updated at a rate of once per second or greater. For example, the digital compass may provide orientation signals around 10 times per second. The position of greatest interest is that closest to the cow ID reader 6. Based on identification of the cow closest to the reader (described below) and the stall closest to the reader, it is possible to associate a particular cow with a particular stall.

Cow identification

The cow ID reader 6 receives signals from a number of RFID tags fitted to different cows. The signals from each tag uniquely identify the cow to which that tag is fitted. However, determination of which individual cow is in a particular position is difficult because a number of cows may be within range of the cow ID reader, such that it receives signals from a number of RFID tags.

The system of Figure 1 addresses this problem through use of the following method. The processor 11 receives data from RFID tags over a period of time. From the time distribution of the various signals received, the processor is able to identify a time at which a particular cow is most likely to be in a particular position closest to the cow ID reader 6. The algorithm takes into account the overlapping of ID reads from different RFID tags, the read rate employed by the cow ID reader 6 and the absence of ID reads (which may indicate an empty stall). By comparing this identified time with the positions of stalls in time (determined above), it is possible to associate the particular cow with a particular stall.

The algorithm may also take into account the order of individual cows on the rotating platform. This order may be determined from the time distribution of ID reads and may be used to improve the accuracy of association of particular cows with particular stalls.

Preferably, the cow ID reader 6 outputs cow ID reads at a rate of once per second or faster whenever one or more ID tags are in range of the reader.

Thus, the Applicant's system allows for continuous or periodic gathering of RFID reads and orientation or position information from the RFID reader and digital compass. The system allows for the accurate association of a particular cow with a particular stall. This allows for monitoring of performance of each cow. Furthermore, storage of this data allows for statistical analysis of performance, not only of each cow but also of the milking plant as a whole.

For example, by monitoring platform position in time, it is possible to determine motion of the platform, such as a rate of rotation. Efficiency data derived from this motion information and/or cow ID reads collected over a period of time may be displayed to a user.

The system is described above as including a separate digital compass, cow ID reader and processor. Of course, these elements may be combined in a single module providing the same functionality, or may be provided in any number of modules communicating with each other via wired or wireless links.

Figure 2 shows another embodiment of a system 200 for monitoring dairy platform usage. The system includes a controller 18 which has a processor 19 and memory 20. The controller communicates via wireless links 21, 22, 23 with various on-farm system components.

In particular, the controller 18 communicates via a first wireless link 21 with a platform position measurement device 24, which may be a digital compass device as described above.

The controller 18 communicates via a second wireless link 22 with a user hub 25. The user hub may include a display 26 for displaying data to a user during or after milking and is preferably located near the dairy platform. The user hub may include a switch 27 for switching the display 26 or the system 200 on or off. The RFID reader 28 may also be linked through the user hub 26 or may communicate in any other suitable manner with the controller 18.

The controller 18 also communicates via a third wireless link 23 with a sensor hub 30. A communications bus 31 allows one or more sensors 32, 33, 34 to be connected to the sensor hub 30. The sensors may be empty stall sensors and the like, discussed above. Preferably the sensors include one or more milk-flow sensors connected in-line in the milk-flow conduits for each stall. Such sensors are described, for example, in the Applicant's PCT application published as WO 03/104785.

Data from the RFID reader 28, stall position sensor 24 and sensors 32, 33, 34 is received by the controller 18. Data from the sensors 32, 33, 34 can therefore be associated with individual cows.

The controller 18 may communicate via a further wireless link 40 and the Internet 41 with a remote server 42. This server 42 may include a processor 43 and memory 44 and may be configured to store data received from the controller, either in memory 44 or a database in external memory 45. This allows a user to access data on farm performance from the server 42 over the Internet 41. Thus, farm owners, managers or other users can access reports from any location.

Performance data may be determined either in the controller 18 or the server 42 based on data provided by the platform orientation sensor 24, the RFID reader 28 and the various other sensors 32, 33, 34.

While the present invention has been illustrated by the description of the embodiments thereof, and while the embodiments have been described in detail, it is not the intention of the Applicant to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications will readily appear to those skilled in the art. Therefore, the invention in its broader aspects is not limited to the specific details, representative apparatus and method, and illustrative examples shown and described. Accordingly, departures may be made from such details without departure from the spirit or scope of the Applicant's general inventive concept.

Claims

1. A method for associating individual cows with particular rotating platform stalls including the steps of: i. determining stall position in time; ii. collecting a plurality of cow ID reads in time from an ID reader device; iii. identifying an individual cow from the collected ID reads; iv. determining the most likely closest proximity time when the identified cow is closest to the ID reader device from the time distribution of the collected ID reads; v. determining the most likely stall associated with the ID reader at the most likely closest proximity time; and vi. assigning the most likely stall to the identified cow.
2. The method according to claim 1 wherein determining stall position in time includes determining platform position in time and determining stall position in time from a known relationship between platform position and stall position.
3. The method according to claim 2 wherein platform position is determined to a resolution better than 0.5 stall pitch.
4. The method according to claim 2 or 3 wherein the platform position is output once per second or faster.
5. The method according to any one of claims 2 to 4 wherein the platform position is platform orientation.
6. The method according to claim 5, wherein the platform orientation is determined to a resolution of 2 degrees or better.
7. The method according to any preceding claim wherein cow ID reads are output from the ID reader continuously at a rate of once per second or faster whenever an ID tag is in range.
8. The method according to claim 2 wherein platform position and/or stall position, and cow ID reads are recorded or stored for statistical processing.
9. The method according to any preceding claim including determining an order of individual cows from the time distribution of ID reads taking into account read rate, overlapping reads of different cow ID and absence of reads.
10. The method according to any preceding claim wherein an algorithm is used to determine the closest proximity to the ID reader of the identified cow from the distribution of ID reads.
11. A system for associating individual cows with rotating platform stalls comprising: i. a position measuring device configured to allow determination of stall position in time; ii. a cow ID reader device configured to output a plurality of cow ID reads; iii. a processor configured to: a. receive cow ID reads from the cow ID reader device; b. identify an individual cow from the received cow ID reads; c. determine the most likely closest proximity time when the identified cow is closest to the ID reader device from the time distribution of the received cow ID reads; d. determine the most likely stall associated with the cow ID reader at the most likely closest proximity time; and e. associate the identified cow with the most likely stall.
12. The system according to claim 11 wherein the position measuring device is configured to measure platform position in time, and stall position in time can be determined from a known relationship between platform position and stall position.
13. The system according to claim 12 wherein the position measuring device is configured to determine platform position to a resolution better than 0.5 stall pitch.
14. The system according to claim 12 or 13 wherein the position measuring device is configured to output platform position once per second or faster.
15. The system according to any one of claims 12 to 14 wherein the platform position is platform orientation and the position measuring device is a compass.
16. The system according to claim 15 wherein the position measuring device has a resolution of 2 degrees or better.
17. The system according to claim 15 wherein the compass has an electronic output.
18. The system according to any one of claims 11 to 17 wherein cow ID reads are output from the ID reader continuously at a rate of once per second or faster whenever an ID tag is in range.
19. The system according to claim 12, further including memory configured to store records of platform position and/or stall position, and cow ID reads.
20. The system according to any one of claims 11 to 19 wherein the processor is configured to determine an order of individual cows from the time distribution of ID reads taking into account read rate, overlapping reads of different cow ID and absence of reads.
21. The system according to any one of claims 11 to 20 wherein the processor is configured to implement an algorithm to determine the closest proximity to the ID reader of the identified cow from the distribution of ID reads.
22. A method for measuring the operational performance of a milking plant having a rotating dairy platform, the method including the steps of: i. determining platform position in time; ii. collecting a plurality of cow ID reads over a period of time from an ID reader; iii. determining motion information from the platform position information; and iv. determining performance data from the motion information and the collected cow ID reads.
23. A system for measuring the operational performance of a milking plant comprising: i. a platform position measuring device; ii. a cow ID reader configured to collect a plurality of cow ID reads over a period of time; and iii. a processor configured to receive platform position information from the position measuring device and the collected cow ID reads from the ID reader, and to: a. determine motion information from the platform position information; and b. determine performance data from the motion information and the collected cow ID reads.
24. A method of determining a stall position in a rotating dairy platform, including: i. determining the orientation of the platform using a compass; and ii. determining the stall position from a known relationship between stall position and platform orientation.
25. A system for determining a stall position in a rotating dairy platform, including: i. a compass arranged to provide an indication of the orientation of the platform; and ii. a processor arranged to determine the stall position from a known relationship between stall position and platform orientation.
26. A system as claimed in claim 25 wherein the compass is a digital compass.
27. A system as claimed in claim 25 or 26 wherein the compass is mounted at the pivot of the dairy platform.
PCT/NZ2007/000258 2006-09-08 2007-09-06 Dairy platform measurement systems and methods WO2008030116A1 (en)

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AU2007293771A AU2007293771B2 (en) 2006-09-08 2007-09-06 Dairy platform measurement systems and methods
GB0905700A GB2457178A (en) 2006-09-08 2007-09-06 Dairy platform measurement systems and methods

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