The longer a cow remains healthy and productive, the better it is for the cow, the farmer, the dairy chain and sustainability. Farmers need advice on how to care for individual cows. To do this, real time sensor data is indispensable. The project 'Smart Dairy Farming' (SDF) shows that sensors around the cow that measure her status - what she eats, whether she is ill - increase efficiency and sustainability. 5G makes it possible for these sensors to communicate more easily with supporting systems. Perhaps one day, the cow will app the farmer when she gives birth.


SDF started in 2011 on seven farms in Friesland and Groningen. The aim of SDF is to improve the operation of dairy farming by using the latest technologies. With advice based on real-time data of individual cows instead of historical data for groups of cows, you get much more insight into those processes and can make well informed decisions.


10 years from now, all sub-processes, such as rearing young cattle, insemination of fertile cows and transition and intake of feed will be monitored at the level of the individual cow with the aid of sensors. This gives the dairy farmer integral advice on how to optimise these sub processes. To this end, hundreds of different sensors are expected to be installed on dairy farms that follow these sub processes and use applications to advise the dairy farmer. For transporting the data and determining location, 5G will be an essential precondition.


Sensors can be used to monitor and measure the total production and consumption of, for example, nitrogen and other minerals/phosphates. They are essential for good cow health, but can also be released into the environment as waste. With the input of sensors, the environmental impact can be reduced and cows can be fed only on the basis of their actual needs. 


Within SDF, partners in the dairy chain work together to create value on the basis of shared information. TNO provides expertise in the field of IT, business models and organisational changes, among other things, and has provided the link with knowledge institutes such as Wageningen University & Research and the Dairy Campus in Leeuwarden, and a number of market parties.


The cooperating parties have already achieved a great deal, especially in the areas of sensor applications, 'internet of things' and big data analysis. An important step was the creation of a cooperative data hub (JoinData), to share data securely. As in other sectors, this is sensitive in terms of competitive position, privacy and ownership. But if you want to innovate as a sector, you have to share data with one another.


5G will further facilitate and expand the use of sensors and the 'internet of cows'. In this way, 5G enables positioning. For example, for pasture grazing of cows, where farmers receive a bonus on the milk price, it is possible to more accurately keep track of whether, and for how long, a cow is in the pasture. In addition, the many sensors that are currently located on farms are wired, whereas with 5G these can be wireless.

More information?

For more information, please contact Evert van den Akker


Evert van den Akker MBA