Andresen described first-year research and development: "The critical thing we did this year is prove that, yes, we can get health data off the cow and into some type of data-recording device, and the data appears to look, at least on first analysis, like it could be useful data."
Over the next five years, K-State researchers will address technical issues toward realizing a telemedicine system that's capable of alerting livestock producers and veterinarians to serious animal health problems and potential trouble spots.
The complex infrastructure will have to be capable of accumulating and aggregating three layers of data, be economically feasible for producers, and protect the confidentiality of their herd health information while still allowing data access for epidemiological analysis, Andresen said.
The telemedicine system will gather health data for an animal, store it locally so it can be pulled onto a handheld PDA-type device, which gives a producer a coarse health analysis. Next, this data can be uploaded onto a personal computer at the ranch or feedlot for more sophisticated analysis that could include herd records, weather data, or global information systems data, in order to detect worrisome health patterns in the herd. Finally, via an Internet connection, a synopsis of ranch herd data would go to local veterinarians, creating a kind of regional animal health picture.
Successfully developing a veterinary telemedicine system capable of monitoring health information for the vast U.S. livestock herd provides a national security benefit, too. With it in place, veterinarians would have early warning of serious diseases -- a lesson drawn from experiences of Great Britain and elsewhere.