No Cow Left Behind: Personalising Success in Education and Dairy Farming


Posted: April 3, 2024

Dr. Nial O’Boyle

Teachers strive to ensure that every student not only meets educational benchmarks but also achieves their fullest potential, developing both academically and personally. However, that is a challenge as every student falls under the bell-shaped curve of intellectual ability and not all students are served well by one-size-fits-all educational strategies. This distribution means that whilst most students might thrive under standard teaching methods, those on the lower and higher ends of the spectrum may not receive the individualized attention and resources they need to truly excel. Recognising and adapting to the diverse needs, learning styles, and potentials of students are crucial for educational equity and effectiveness. Teachers must employ various strategies, from differentiated instruction to personalised learning plans, to ensure that each student, regardless of where they fall on the curve, can navigate their educational journey successfully and reach their personal and academic goals. Therefore, a balance must be struck to teach to the level of the main cohort, but maintain attention to the individual. The main ways to assess where pupils fall are examinations and homework.

Cows milking performance falls under a similar bell-shaped curve to intellect ability, with outstanding performers, and those at the tail-end. The nutritionist must balance a similar task to the teacher – feed for the benefit of the majority of the cohort, but ideally pay special attention to those falling behind, or who need extra. As milk production is a very recognisable output, producers and nutritionist tend to feed for maximum milk, this is akin to teaching to the smartest pupils in the classroom. Unfortunately, this often leads to many of the cows becoming over-conditioned, and become dropouts in the next lactation.

Feeding in robots/parlour and grouping cows in pens with different rations offer a similar strategy to giving targeted teaching to specific groups or individuals. Cows have the advantage that milk yield information can help in monitoring their progress. However, there has always been a piece missing- Body Condition Score (BCS). The success of the lactation also depends on how they are partitioning the feed into body condition or milk, having a massive impact on health, reproduction, dry matter intake and success in the next lactation. Measuring milk has been done for over 100 years, and assessing BCS similarly, although small herds made BCS monitoring easier. We have known the benefits of using BCS data to manage health and productivity for decades. Although it is extremely difficult to do frequently, consistently, and objectively.

CattleEye has innovated a solution which achieves this missing piece. By capturing overhead images, artificial intelligence and machine learning can calculate the BCS of each cow daily. It is consistent, objective, and frequent. It was trained on a very large data set by veterinary experts and has been academically validated.

This offers a novel and exciting management tool for dairy farmers and nutritionists. Rather than just relying on milk yields, this twin approach can enable cows to be precisely fed by adjusting component feeding and/or rations. Cows can be grouped and fed to not necessarily achieve the highest milk, but the optimum; in terms of production, BCS and cost. Less over and underfeeding will enable cows to reach an optimum BCS score at dry off, and decrease metabolic disorders. Reducing metabolic disorders will in turn promote longevity in dairy cows and reduce GHG emissions.

Achieving excellence in both education and dairy farming requires strategies that recognise individual needs within a larger group. In education, this involves tailoring instruction to each student’s unique abilities, using assessments to inform teaching strategies. Similarly, CattleEye offers dairy farmers a way to manage cow health and productivity with precision, addressing each cow’s Body Condition Score (BCS) individually. This technology closes a critical gap in herd management. It enables farmers to adjust feeding strategies effectively, aiming not just for maximum milk production but for optimal cow health and efficiency. CattleEye’s approach to precision farming mirrors the personalised tactics in modern education, promising a future where dairy farming is sustainable, animals are healthier, and operations are more profitable, all achieved by focusing on the individual within the herd.