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Business

Japan's Docomo to help farmers increase milk production

Wireless sensors will tell when cows are in heat

NTT Docomo's sensors, placed on the neck of cows, will detect motions and other activities indicating estrus.

TOKYO -- Japanese telecommunications giant NTT Docomo will launch an internet-linked monitoring service later this month that will help farmers better determine whether a cow is in heat.

Dairy cows are said to produce more milk when in estrus, and the innovation would also promote the efficient breeding of beef cattle.

Docomo's system will adopt devices developed by Hokkaido startup Farmnote. The plan is to market the product via regional agricultural associations and have 1,000 dairy farmers adopt the technology in two years.

Sensors placed on the cows' necks will monitor their movement, rumination times and other data. That information will be collected wirelessly to determine whether those activities have escalated -- a sign that a cow is in heat. This internet of things application is believed to be at least 90% accurate for free-range cattle.

Artificial intelligence programs will enable determinations based on individual differences. Prices for sensors and other devices come to 29,800 yen ($264) per head, along with a monthly service fee of 200 yen a cow. Data-relaying equipment and placing the sensors on the cattle will cost extra.

Dairy farmers who own 50 cows stand to lose nearly 4 million yen annually in reduced milk volume if they miss estrus cycles. For that reason, producers are expected to recoup initial costs after using Docomo's system for a year.

The devices will also quickly detect signs of sickness or similar problems within cattle. Docomo is also looking at providing additional services, including those that would aid raising calves, monitor feed levels and support farm produce logistics.

Docomo aims to take in about 100 billion yen from its internet of things business in fiscal 2020, or triple fiscal 2016's estimate.

(Nikkei)

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