SmartBeef 2023: remote monitoring dialling in to help with vet work

Eric Barker, 17/10/2023

Dr Tony Batterham telling an assisted reality headset to make a call to the pen-riders.

WITH a shortage of rural vets well-documented in recent months, the use of wearable camera technology for remote diagnosis and veterinary assistance has been developing as a way of freeing up resources.

Last week’s Australin Lot Feeders’ Assocition SmartBeef conference was run through some of the work being done to streamline processes at Elders’ Killara Feedlot, which was hosting the event.

Labour shortages in-general were big talking point at the conference, with several delegates telling Beef Central that finding staff was still a battle and the “Young Lotfeeder of the Year” award winner basing his application on a program focussed on retaining staff.

As groups rotated through a series of workstations, they heard from Apiam Animal Health’s business manager of intensive industries Dr Tony Batterham, who has been trialling remote monitoring technology on a series of practical applications in feedlots. (More about those trials at the bottom of this article)

One of the main pieces of technology that is starting to gain traction is the assisted reality headsets, which have an arm that can project images in-front of the user, take calls and do internet searches using voice prompts.

“We actually came across the technology from mining sites, where you would see some guy fixing a dump truck dial back to an engineer somewhere and show them the issue,” Dr Batterham said.

“We are using this technology on some sites already with fit-to-load assessments being the main use. But there is no reason why we can’t use them for other procedures in the future.”

How assisted reality works

Keeping with SmartBeef’s theme of giving delegates on-ground technical experience, Dr Batterham sent two pen-riders into the pens to check on some cattle. He then called them from a computer using Librestream Onsight, rather than Microsoft Teams, which is also possible.

The pen-riders identified one animal they suspected may have something wrong with its hoof. They then dialled in another vet, who showed them a dummy version of a foot apsis to identify the issue.

Dr Batterham then took a screenshot of the animal in question, highlighted the hoof and sent it as a pdf report and emailed it.

“Most of the time with vets, we are not necessarily on site or even beside a laptop but can work through some of these issues on the phone,” he said.

“Say you did it with a fit-to-load report in this way, you could generate a report and send all the details to the feedlot manager and other relevant people.”

He also highlighted some other handy functions, including the storage of manuals and other training resources in the headsets to put them on the projected screen and adding subtitles in different languages to the call.

“We have used them in a lot of different situations and wherever there is a workflow they are useful – whether that be for things like handling stock, inductions or helping animals in the hospital pen,” he said.

Better identifying animals in the pen

Differentiating animals in pens full of similar cattle has been an issue Dr Batterham has been trying to work through in his trials.

“It can get a bit hard trying to identify a sick animal in a pen full of Angus cattle,” he said.

“I think coming up some sort of proximity alert is where is going next.”

  • More on Dr Batterham’s work here








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  1. Tony Batterham, 19/10/2023

    Thanks Eric. Small correction to note that remote connection call was done through Librestream Onsight software as opposed to Microsoft Teams (which is possible to do also).
    Thanks for clearing that up Tony. Eric

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