Researchers within The Texas A&M University System are testing new technologies at a feedlot in the Texas Panhandle to find ways to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock, according to an announcement.
Lately, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras have been buzzing over a research feed lot near Amarillo, Texas, as scientists test methods to identify feverish animals. By singling out sick cattle for treatment, the Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists said they can treat only the ones in need of medication instead of relying on the practice of injecting the entire herd with antibiotics.
Small, remote-controlled and unmanned aerial vehicles are already central to technology-assisted precision agriculture, the announcement said. For years, drones have been used to monitor crops to help reduce water, fertilizers and pesticides.
Now, they are being used with livestock as a natural extension of precision agriculture, Texas A&M University System chancellor John Sharp said.
“Millennials are getting blamed all the time for destroying industries, but in this case, they are creating one,” Sharp said. “Demand for antibiotic-free meat and ingenuity from Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists have led to some very exciting technology and a new segment of precision agriculture.”
Dr. Brent Auvermann, a professor and center director at Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Amarillo, said drones are being used more to address issues of modern life.
“By taking pictures and images of different kinds from a long way away, we can tell what needs to be done and go do it,” he said.
The use of drones to pick out sick cattle isn’t the only way AgriLife Research spots sick livestock; other researchers in College Station, Texas, and the panhandle are also experimenting with cameras and artificial intelligence to identify ailing animals based on behavior.