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April 22, 2002

UMBC Invention for Identifying Lameness in Dairy Cattle to be Developed by New Zealand Firm

Baltimore, Md. -- A UMBC professor's device used to automatically detect lameness in dairy cattle has been licensed for development by a New Zealand-based firm in a deal that could save the global dairy industry millions annually.

DEC International New Zealand, Ltd., and UMBC reached a licensing agreement this week that allows for the commercialization of the device. UMBC Professor of Mechanical Engineering Uri Tasch invented the detector system during a three-year collaboration with scientists from the University of Maryland, College Park's Animal and Avian Science department.

Tasch's invention, "Method and Device for Analyzing Weight and Walking Gait," uses a sensitive scale, video camera, and computerized instruments to measure the force and duration of a cow's steps. The device then factors in the cow's weight and automatically pinpoints which leg might be causing problems.

Early detection of lameness is tough to do with the naked eye, and usually requires a visit from a vet and time-consuming tests to be sure. "Lameness rates for a typical dairy herd of 100 cows average between 15 to 30 percent," Tasch says. "Each case costs the farmer between three and four hundred dollars to cure."

Tasch estimates that the American dairy industry loses close to $500 million a year to livestock lameness, which is caused by infection, arthritis, or injury. There are billions of dollars a year at stake internationally. The system also saves farmers time, analyzing each cow automatically as it crosses the device platform on the way into the barn for feeding or milking.

The license with DEC International NZ is limited to the fields of dairy and beef cattle. Tasch and his group are continuing to develop the device for horses and sheep and have received some funding from the USDA but are seeking private investment.

Tasch's team is based at UM College Park's Clarksville experimental farm in Howard County. There he and College Park animal scientist Mark Varner, Clarksville farm staffer Benny Erez, and Robert Dyer, a veterinarian from the University of Delaware, worked in a barn on the farm's 925 acres with a herd of 110 dairy cows.

Bou-Matic of Madison, Wisconsin under a separate agreement with DEC International NZ will develop and market the licensed product. Bou-Matic is a recognized industry leader in international dairy automation.

"The technology has tremendous potential and will offer a significant benefit to dairy producers worldwide," said Robert Kmoch, President of Bou-Matic. "Once fully developed, the system will be an excellent fit with our existing products such as Bou-Matic's on-farm management information systems, cow identification and sorting systems and our robotic milking system"

Tasch's invention is the fourth of the year for UMBC. "It's a strong technology with great commercial potential, a number of companies expressing an interest in taking a license, and a group of inventors that played an integral role in demonstrating the value of their invention," said Stephen Auvil, director of technology development at UMBC.

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Posted by dwinds1 at April 22, 2002 12:00 AM