Electronic intra-ruminal sensors and telemetry offer new opportunities for remote monitoring of the rumen environment. Sensors capable of measuring pH, temperature and pressure were subjected to laboratory and intra-ruminal evaluation in rumen-fistulated cows offered baleage indoors or hay with pasture outdoors. Each bolus underwent a testing sequence consisting of i) bench-top calibration against certified devices, ii) testing in the rumen to validate sensor measurement against actual measurement, and iii) monitoring the rumen environment of cows under contrasting feeding conditions for periods up to 72 hours. Bolus efficacy was evaluated from the accuracy of temperature and pressure measurements, stability of pH measurements over several days and the data capture rate being the actual number of data transmissions received as a proportion of the number expected based on transmission frequency setting. Intra-ruminal records show clear relationships of pH with diet and feeding bouts, whilst temperature records indicated drinking. Pressure changes were more difficult to interpret but may indicate satiety. These devices provide non-disruptive monitoring of rumen parameters and would be useful for studies of nutritional manipulation and rumen digestion efficiency, and for monitoring aspects of animal health.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 70, Palmerston North, 71-76, 2010
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