Automated ovulation prediction – then & now

ByFrancesca Harding

Automated ovulation prediction – then & now

Over the last few months we have spent lots of time looking into the future and making exciting plans for Milkalyser.

As we are now in the final stages of development, we’re taking a look back on what we have achieved over the past few years. Although Milkalyser as we know it has only been in development since 2015, the idea behind it is certainly not a new one with its basis stemming from research conducted nearly 20 years ago.

Milkalyser founder and chief engineer, Professor Toby Mottram, collaborated on a research project during the late 1990s to design an automated ovulation prediction system. Much like Milkalyser, the system integrated a progesterone biosensor with automatic milk sampling and fertility management software. The system was successfully built in the early 2000s, and was tested on a small number of animals at a research farm. It was able to successfully characterise ovulation cycles, detect pregnancy, and produce a reasonable progesterone profile.

To improve the system, refinement of the biosensor was needed and the team were hopeful that it could provide a useful tool for fertility management on dairy farms, but further development of the project was halted by the Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic in 2001. A few years later, funding for the research body (Silsoe Research Institute) was cut and the project was shelved.

Figure 1 – A schematic providing an overview of an earlier attempt at an ovulation prediction system.

However, the research that had been conducted had not been completely forgotten. After undertaking  several other projects including eCow and VirtualVet, Toby turned his attention back to automated ovulation prediction. Nearly 15 years later, technology within the dairy industry had advanced hugely and the time was right to try again.

Perhaps the most important innovations have been within the biotechnology industry. Large amounts of research have resulted in refined, portable biosensors which can rapidly measure progesterone both reliably and accurately. By further optimising these biosensors, Milkalyser will greatly improve on the previously engineered ovulation prediction system.

Since the early 2000s, much more research has been conducted into the mathematical characterisation of progesterone profiles, and the prediction of ovulation time from progesterone. Milkalyser has harnessed this research to build our own algorithm to provide accurate ovulation prediction times based on progesterone readings. In addition to this, engineering advancements have resulted in the production of a compact and retrofittable system that will be accessible to all dairy farmers.

Find out more about the benefits Milkalyser could bring to your farm here or get in touch with our team on 01392 422441 or via info@milkalyser.com.

About the author

Francesca Harding administrator