Drones Expected to Reduce Antibiotics in Livestock

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The Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center is trying to improve ranching with the help of drones. 

Scientists are trying to find ways to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock by using drones to help detect sick or injured animals.

New technology may make it easier for ranchers in the panhandle to detect a fever or illness in their livestock.  

Brent Auvermann, Center Director at Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center, explained how they use sensors attached to the camera. 

“One of the sensors that we’re using is a thermal imager that helps us look for hot spots on the animal,” Auvermann said. “It’s difficult when we’re outside under the bright panhandle sunshine, makes it more complicated, but we think we can do it.”

The big part of this project is the usage of drones that the cameras are attached to. 

“We’re in preliminary stages just trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t just in terms of measuring temperatures on the animals,” Auvermann stated. 

The drones are supposed to help ranchers see what they cannot, such as what temperatures are above the average. This will help find the animal that needs care as opposed to injecting the entire herd with antibiotics.

“If the drone flies over that standard and we know what temperature that is then we can use that to calibrate all of the other images that are being developed off of the animals,” Auvermann explained. 

Jack Bush, a Senior Research Associate at Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center, broke down the mechanics of how the new technology works. 

“We have multiple sensors that we can mount on the bottom down here,” Bush stated. “This is our thermal camera and we also have a regular digital camera that we can put on there.”

Bush explained the simplicity of using the drone, especially since it is controlled by apps. 

“There’s programming on the drone and use either a smartphone or a tablet to fly it. there’s actually an app,” Bush said. “There’s multiple apps that you can download.”

The Federal Aviation Administration states that the drones can only be flown up to 400 feet above ground level and it cannot fly any further away than what the eye can see. 

The use of drones in ag life is not new, just new to livestock.

Researchers say they have been using drones to help detect issues with crops for about three to four years.

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