SAN ANTONIO – Texas State University is teaming up with a company that is developing solar-powered ear tags with GPS to help monitor cattle.
Maeve Garigan is founder and CEO of Roper, the company behind the device.
In addition to monitoring movement, the solar tag will also track the cattle's health.
"It’s on top of the ear, so it gets the solar energy to be autonomously powered. You don't need to do battery changes and it has a sensor suite on it. So, accelerometer, body temperature, etc," Garigan said. "GPS and it’s running algorithms on the animal's ear on that device."
"It's really important that we know what these animals are because they're a critical part of our economy and a critical part of our food security," Garigan said.
Garigan is a research and development engineer who was inspired to create this device after visiting ranchers in New Mexico.
"So, I was in New Mexico visiting with ranchers and they were telling me about all the problems they had with wolves that were attacking cattle in the Gila National Forest," Garigan said.
"And as I got to $120,000 grant from the state New Mexico to work on the project and as we're going through it, we find out that there are some real serious issues that are broadly applicable to ranching that we can address with this technology," she said.
The work will be done at the Freeman Center at Texas State University.
Garigan is working with Elizabeth Benavides, an assistant professor of animal science at Texas State University.
"We kind of have marked a central location to put the station that's going to collect all that data. But yes, the cows are going to be all here at the ranch," Benavides said.
"So does their rising temperature and can we correlate to that to some kind of disease that animal (is) suffering," Benavides said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said there are 13 million beef cattle in Texas, which continues to rank first in the nation for a total number of cattle and calves.
"By 2050, we're aiming to feed 50 million people and we're, the population is outpacing that production, the scale that we have right now. So these technologies are essential in order to help move that forward," Benavides said.
The company is working on making some tweaks to the prototype.
The goal is to start the research at Texas State with official devices in six months.