According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), four million animals died last year in the U.S. as part of its dairy and beef production. This represents many billions of dollars in economic losses each year for both U.S. dairy and beef producers in terms of lost revenue, rendering fees, and unrewarded expenses, like feed costs. On an average dairy operation, 8% of all producing will die; and on an average feedlot operation, where animals may only spend approximately 180 days, 3% will die.
Many times more frequent, however, are animals that get sick but do not die. On an average dairy operation, more than 40% of all producing animals will get at least one debilitating condition each year. On an average feedlot operation, again, where animals only spend approximately 180 days, more than 20% of all animals will get sick. The economic damage from animals that get sick but do not die is also many billions of dollars each year in the U.S., coming from increased medical costs, added feed costs and decreased revenue from lower productivity and quality. Some experts argue that sick animals cause more economic harm than those that actually die. The total economic loss in the U.S. from animal sickness and death is estimated to be greater than $5 billion each year and the losses worldwide are twelve times this.
According Vital Herd - a new start up aiming to significantly reduce sickness and death rates, as well as feed costs, in the dairy and beef production industries - these losses can be mitigated. The benefit of doing so is not only a significant economic gain for producers but also leads to improved animal well-being, higher quality, more nutritional dairy and beef products, and reduced environmental impact, such as reduced methane emissions, from healthier, more efficient animals. Brian Walsh, a former venture capitalist in San Francisco at Nth Power, LLC, and Vital Herd’s CEO and Co-founder, says “animal illness and death rates for both dairy and beef production in the U.S. have remained consistently high for well over a decade. When I discovered this, I knew that there must be a much better way’”.
Vital Herd’s approach to mitigating animal deaths and illnesses and improving feed efficiency is a proprietary, low cost, completely non-invasive individual animal monitoring solution that captures animal physiological, feeding and behavior information. Much of the information that Vital Herd’s patent-pending technology can capture has never been obtainable before, especially in a non-invasive way. The solution essentially captures animal ‘vital signs’ and more for early, sub clinical, detection, enabling quicker, earlier, more effective treatment and prevention strategies. This is a big change from what is done today, where animals are observed a couple times each day for physical, clinical, signs of issues such as ‘ears down’ or ‘head down’ (i.e. mild depression). When treating animals that are already in a clinical stage of a disease or condition, it is very difficult to reverse it and achieve full recovery. Given this approach, it is not surprising that the death rates and sickness rates have been consistently high for so long.
Vital Herd’s ‘Big Data’ Software as a Service (SaaS) solution enables dairy and beef operations to use a data-driven animal health management approach for better productivity, quality, security, and enhanced animal well-being. Karim Gabriel, Vital Herd’s technologist, says “the cause of most dairy and beef animal illnesses and deaths are predictable but not preventable today because, with today’s technology, operations cannot not detect when an animal has an issue until very late in the condition’s progression. Our solution fundamentally changes this in a way that is practical and scalable for industry-wide adoption”.
The need to mitigate current losses, however, is far greater than just making the industry more profitable or improving animal well-being. Production efficiency technologies, like Vital Herd, are absolutely needed in order for food supply to meet future demand. The United Nations estimates that to feed the world’s increasing population, global food production must double by 2050 and that 70% of this ‘added supply’ must come from technology-enabled production efficiency improvements because most of the world’s farmable land is already in use.
Vital Herd was incorporated in February, 2012, has pending IP on its solution, and has attracted several industry leaders to its advisor board. Walsh, Vital Herd’s CEO, will be presenting at the 2012 Ag Innovation Showcase on September 11th - the company’s first public appearance.
About Vital Herd, Inc.
Vital Herd, Inc. (vitalherd.com) was founded in early 2012 to modernize the global beef and dairy production industries through continuous, autonomous and individual animal monitoring for increased farmer profits, reduced use of antibiotics and improved animal well-being.