New ear tag technology shown to improve illness detection in cattle


The electronic SenseHub Feedlot from Merck Animal Health is designed to find sickness earlier and more accurately than alternative methods might provide.

Photo credit: Merck Animal Health

SenseHub Feedlot technology utilizes an electronic ear tag with a flashing LED light to make it easier for pen riders to correctly identify and pull sick animals.

Photo credit: Merck Animal Health

SenseHub Feedlot technology utilizes an electronic ear tag with a flashing LED light to make it easier for pen riders to correctly identify and pull sick animals.

Merck Animal Health has released the new electronic ear tag technology SenseHub Feedlot, which is designed to detect sickness in cattle more accurately and earlier than traditional visual observation. A product of Allflex Livestock Intelligence, SenseHub Feedlot is available now as a part of a limited rollout, with plans to expand availability this summer, according to Merck.

The state-of-the-art technology was proven to be effective by investigators at a feed yard in Oklahoma. It features an illuminating electronic ear tag designed to easily identify and sort sick cattle, with less labor and minimal disruption to other animals, according to Merck.

SenseHub Feedlot tracks behavioral and biometric data to monitor the health of each animal. Body temperature is captured by an infrared thermistor, and a built-in accelerometer measures animal activity. Using collected data, this electronic ear tag applies machine learning algorithms to identify individual calves that vary from baseline norms, according to Merck.

Cattle caregivers receive a daily pull list on their mobile device or computer that includes individual animals identified by the system as needing further assessment such as those with bovine respiratory disease (BRD), lameness, or other ailments. Simultaneously, an LED light on the respective sick animals’ tags illuminates and flashes, so pen riders can quickly spot them. After an animal is pulled, the caregiver determines the cause and provides appropriate treatment.

“SenseHub Feedlot offers those who manage and care for cattle an innovative new approach to detecting illness,” said Jason Nickell, DVM, PhD, DACVPM, director of insights and outcomes at Merck Animal Health, in a company press release. “Cattle’s defense mechanisms mean they often hide symptoms of illness, making it very challenging for even experienced pen riders to find sick animals. SenseHub Feedlot assists the pen rider by removing the guesswork. Animals can be pulled and treated more quickly and more accurately.”

Investigators at the Oklahoma feed yard found that monitoring market cattle with the SenseHub Feedlot system significantly reduced mortality caused by BRD, compared with traditional pen rider observation. In the first 60 days, BRD mortality was lower for cattle monitored with SenseHub Feedlot, even though disease incidence was higher for that group.

Additionally, the Oklahoma trial demonstrated a 71% reduction in labor for riders entering pens with the use of SenseHub Feedlot. Riders who observed cattle visually entered an average of 18 pens per day, compared with only 5.3 pens per day on average when assisted by the new technology.

“The technology is like having another employee monitoring cattle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even with ‘feedlot’ in the product name, the product also has application in backgrounding/stocker operations or cow/calf operations retaining calves,” Nickell noted in the company release. “Current users of the technology have reported lower treatment costs, as it allows them to pull sick animals earlier and only treat sick animals. They’ve also reported less mortality, fewer retreats and improved treatment outcomes due to earlier intervention.”

SenseHub Feedlot requires minimal hardware, is easy to implement on any size operation, and has a range up to 2 miles, according to Merck. The product consists of the reusable ear tag, and an antenna placed on site. A gateway collects, stores, and sends information to a data platform.


Merck Animal Health introduces SenseHub Feedlot electronic ear tag technology. News release. Merck Animal Health. February 1, 2022. Accessed February 1, 2022.

Recent Videos
Honey bee
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.