Frequently Asked Questions
For those interested in the eBolus
What does an eBolus do and do I need one?
The eBolus is used to validate and control risks when changing diets in high yielding dairy cows. When properly used, the data from the bolus can be used to optimise feeds and increase yields, thereby decreasing feed costs.
It measures pH and temperature levels in the rumen and then displays the information in a graph to give you an accurate depiction of how well your cows are being managed. If you suspect your cows could be at risk of SARA or are looking at doing research into digestion patterns of cattle then the eBolus could be perfect for you.
For more information see the ebolus.
For more information on SARA, click here.
If you would like a quote as either a farmer or researcher, then click here.
Are the Vetpack and Farmpack boluses the same?
How long does a bolus last?
Our pH and temperature boluses can be highly accurate for up to 150 days (5 months) in the rumen. For a bolus in constant use, the battery is unlikely to be the limiting factor. Due to the inhospitable environment within the rumen the pH sensor readings become invalid after between 90 and 150 days of continuous use. The time at which the battery runs out far exceeds the life of the pH sensor in the bolus, which is the limiting factor on the bolus lifespan.
Due to the nature of the bolus design the battery cannot be replaced.
Why do pH readings drift?
pH readings tend to drift towards pH 7 and the range narrows after 3-5 months of continuous use in the reticulum. It has been calculated that the pH drift is +/- 0.1 pH unit per 30 days but we do not attempt to apply drift correction as this can always be done retroactively and the mechanisms behind drift are not fully understood.
The effect of pH drift in eCow boluses is caused by rumen fluid slowly seeping into the glass bulb pH sensor, through the protective triple junction and contaminating the reference electrode. Inside the boluses, pH is measured by the differential potential (mV) between the hydronium ions affecting the measurement electrode and the Ag/AgCl reference electrode protected by the triple junction. As rumen liquor begins to leak into the sensor and contaminate the reference the potential difference in mV between the two electrodes narrows so that the pH value appears to be rising.
We do not apply any drift correction, although with the eBolus customers have the ability to re-calibrate the device to correct the pH reading and lengthen the life of the device.
How much does an eBolus cost?
Pricing is dependent on the number required, if you are not in the UK and the current exchange rates.
If you would like to request a quote then please click here.
How long will delivery take?
Delivery time is dependent upon the size of your order, your location and our current orders. A typical order of a box of 6 boluses within the EU should take no more than 3 weeks to be delivered.
If you would like a more up to date time frame we can provide that upon request. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your order size and the country you require them in and we will be happy to assist in your planning.
How is the eBolus administered?
Boluses are swallowed by cows with the aid of a balling gun, a plastic tool often used by vets to administer medicinal boluses. As such we do not recommend boluses be inserted by anyone other than a trained animal technician with the correct training and certification.
If you do try yourself please make sure the balling gun passes past the oesophageal flap to avoid the cows lungs.
How is the pH measured?
The eBolus use a high quality glass bulb pH sensor to continuously and accurately measure pH. This sensor is both non-toxic to the cow and resistant to abrasion from rumen sand. The end cap is designed so that particles push past the bulb rather than onto it.
The pH is calculated by measuring the voltage difference between the measurement electrode (in the rumen fluid) and the reference electrode (assumed to be pH 7). This is converted to a ADC (analogue-to-digital conversion) value and measured against pre-recorded calibration data, resulting in pH readings.
How many cows should be monitored?
Typically we suggest using 1 bolus per 20 to 30 cows to monitor the herd health, therefore 3 boluses for a herd of 100.
In order to get an average reading of the herd we suggest using the boluses in average early lactation cows, instead of using it to diagnose individual sickly cows.
How much data does an eBolus provide and store?
The bolus automatically takes a reading of pH and temperature every minute when it is above 32°C (in a cow). The bolus will store an average value of the pH and temperatures over a 15 minute period giving 96 readings per day.
Both boluses can store up to 2700 lines of data (28 days at 96 readings per day) before it starts overwriting the oldest information.
Can the eBolus be used in beef cattle?
Yes! The constitution of beef cattle actually makes getting readings from the eBolus much easier. We therefore warranty our boluses for use in all cattle cows with a maximum Body Condition Score of between 1 to 3.5 and a minimum weight of 80kg.
If you are interested in using eCow boluses in beef cattle and would like a quote then please click here.
What does a data download involve
The data is downloaded onto the handset whilst standing near the cow. The whole process of connecting and downloading data usually takes less than 10 mins and progress can be monitored on the handset. This data is then sent back to eCow over the internet and made available for viewing through the eCow Client software, as well as a preliminary pH data graph appearing immediately on the handset.
Research customers may choose to opt out of having data sent back to eCow.
Full instructions are provided upon purchase and further assistance can be provided by contacting eCow.
Do cows need to be restrained to download data?
Not necessarily, although it is recommended. With docile dairy cows you can often simply stand next to them and connect; however, downloads may take several minutes so the cow may need to be handled to stop it running off.
How is the data stored once I upload it?
Once uploaded, the data is aggregated into one continuous rumen record for each bolus. These files are stored on our own dedicated servers and you can download and view your data using the HathorHB Client software.
Data is accessible from any computer as long as it is connected to the internet and you have the required login details.
Some farms insert a magnet in the rumen. Does it have any effect on the system?
There have been no reports of magnets effecting the bolus or any of its results and we have never seen any problems in any tests we have undertaken.
Do you make temperature only boluses?
A temperature only device has such limited value we do not consider it is worth developing. Temperature only boluses are strongly affected by many factors including drinking behaviour. Our boluses do however log the temperature, and using our data viewer software you can see the temperature profile of your boluses.
Can we deal with the data in Excel?
Yes. Our bespoke client software Hathor, converts the data for you to be able to open easily in Excel and then do with as you please.
Do you provide Redox Sensors in your boluses?
No, we no longer provide Redox sensors in our eBolus.
For those who own an eBolus.
Can I extend the eBolus battery life?
Our boluses are already preset to be optimised for battery efficiency and ease of use. The time at which they run out far exceeds the life of the pH sensor in the bolus, which is the limiting factor on the bolus lifespan.
How often should I collect the data?
The default settings allow 28 days between readings before the bolus starts overwriting data, although we recommend collecting data every week. If longer than 28 days is left between downloads it will overwrite the oldest data providing you with the most recent 28 days.
If you require your bolus to store more than 28 days worth of data at any one time, please contact us and we will advise further.
Can I use my own phone for data downloads?
Due to the complexity of our system and the requirements involved, we do not support using your own handset.
How do I position the antenna when downloading?
The bolus sits in the reticulum and therefore you should position the antenna behind the cows left front armpit. Pointing the antenna at the cow will work best in an ideal environment. However, we have had surprising success pointing the antenna at a clean concrete floor next to the cow, due to signals bounce off the floor.
Please be aware radio is very non-linear, we are constantly surprised by the influence of small environmental features like metal stanchions. The bolus rotates about every 40 seconds due to eructation/peristaltic muscular action so patience and movement of the antenna will help.
Can we replace batteries ourselves?
No, this is impossible since the bolus is completely sealed and cannot be taken apart. It was designed this way to withstand the hostile conditions within the rumen.
How long can I leave my bolus outside the rumen after re-calibration?
We advise to not exceed the maximum duration of 4 weeks of keeping a bolus in storage after it has been removed and re-calibrated. We also advise that you re-calibrate the bolus again before placing it back into the animal after a prolonged duration of being in storage.
I can't connect to my In Vitro bolus?
It is important to note that when a bolus drops under 30° in temperature, it will enter it’s “Auto Off” mode to conserve power. When outside of the rumen or another source of heat, the bolus will rapidly decrease in temperature. If you can’t connect to your bolus, place it back into the incubator to warm up and then try to read from it again.
It is also important to note that when a bolus has powered itself back on after going into Auto off mode, it will take roughly ten minutes until it starts broadcasting a signal. This must be taken into consideration before removing the bolus from the incubator.
Does the ebolus ever come out of the cow?
Not usually. We’ve only had one case of a cow coughing up a bolus in well over 1000 administered.
Our bolus is currently 150 g, 27 mm diameter and 135 mm long, the size of a large cow pill. When ingested or placed in the rumen by fistula it moves to the reticulum. Using eCow’s patented design, the bolus stands upright in the reticulum and is designed to be heavy enough to not be passed by the cow. It remains in the reticulum until slaughter or removed by hand from a fistulated cow.
Can the ebolus be used in other animals?
eCow neither warrants nor encourages the use of the eBolus for use in other animals. They have been designed specifically with cattle in mind. However, it is theoretically possible to use the boluses in any ruminant animal with a reticulum. Despite this, eCow does not advise using the eBolus on any animals other than cattle that are within the guideline specifications and does not take any responsibility for any problems caused due to misuse.
Our guideline size is an animal over 80kg and with a maximum Body Condition score of between 1 to 3.5.
The current length of the bolus means that it cannot be used in horses. It appears to get stuck at the thoracic inlet with it not being possible to advance the probe even with direct massaging of the oesophagus.
Placing an eBolus in an animal that is not advised will void the products warranty.
If you do plan on using a bolus in an animal other than a cow, please contact us and we will try to advise further.
Who designed the eBolus?
Toby Mottram designed the first pH bolus when at Silsoe Research Institute. He tested the first wireless rumen pH bolus in 2003 for Pfizer and evolved the current design over 8 years at his own expense before setting up eCow.
Who typically buys the eBolus?
Previously researchers were our main customer base and we have supplied products to researchers in universities around the world.
In early 2013 we expanded into commercial dairy farms in the UK and abroad with the updated eBolus and data services.