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SWITCH is a lightweight, portable, purpose built hand tool to help farmers in the dairy industry trim and maintain clean cattle tails.

  • Hero / in-context image

  • User experience video

    User experience video

  • The Problem

  • Design process

  • Inner componentry

  • Works like imagery

What it does

SWITCH incorporates circular clipper heads to hug the shape of the tail creating an easy, stress-free trim. Trimming helps maintain udder health, cleanliness and keep the milkers environment clean, while still allowing the cow to have full use of her tail.

Your inspiration

Being born and raised on a dairy farm I grew up learning and interacting with farming products, procedures and caring for livestock. From this I have been immersed in the dairy industry and believed there were gaps in the industry for good industrial design. Many products that are used today are still very traditional products. My project looked for opportunities to help improve the health and wellbeing of cattle within the dairy industry in New Zealand and around the world. Focusing on products that improve the health and wellbeing of cattle. And the health, wellbeing and comfort of the farmer while dealing with cattle on a daily basis.

How it works

SWITCH is designed to keep up with the busy farming environment while being simple and practical to use. The tool is powered by a 18V 3ah Lithium ion removable battery, having an interchangeable battery means no matter how many tails need trimming the tool can keep up with demand. The battery runs a DC12V motor that is connected to the crankshaft and angled drive pin. An angled drive pin helps facilitate a neutral wrist position, while the on/off control switch on the top allows the user to use the tool in whatever position they feel comfortable, without constricting them to one position, minimising the risk of RSI. The clipper blades are designed to mimic the shape of the tail, trimming more surface area than traditional flat clipper blades for a quick and efficient trim. The outer blade oscillates over the stationary blade reducing the risk of causing injury to the tail or yourself while trimming.

Design process

The project started with interviews from a range of professionals in the dairy industry including farmers, veterinarians and animal care and welfare specialists. Site visits were also undertaken as a research method from a range of farms with different herd and shed types to be able to fully understand the tail trimming process. Initial models explored a range of forms and were tested by difference percentiles. To achieve an accurate assessment of the design a trimming simulation was made and used throughout the testing process. To accomplish a natural position models were made with an adjustable head to determine the ideal position while using the device. As the models became closer to the finalised form weights were added to help simulate weight distribution. A big focus around the tools design was portability, usability and function to maximise the tools use and be able to be seamlessly incorporated into any dairy shed environment. An investigation into different blade shapes was undertaken to develop a blade that would result in an efficient trim. An exploration into existing hand tools and well-known brands used by farmers was done to inspire the final aesthetic of the design. Creating a tool that is appealing while not compromising performance.

How it is different

Only one purpose-built tool for tail trimming currently exists and all existing tail trimming devices that are being use by farmers are bulky, frustrating, time consuming and are often designed to shear sheep not trim cattle tails. SWITCH is the only device that is ergonomically designed to effectively trim tails and help reduce the risk of RSI found commonly among the aging farming population. Regular trimming helps improve cattle health and wellbeing by cleaning the rear end of the cow, especially around the udder and teats. Regular trimming can also eliminate the risk of a cow losing a portion of their tail due blood vessels becoming so constricted by faecal matter that the tail tissues are starved of blood flow, untimely resulting in the tail self-docking. With farmers having access to a tool that is quick, easy and effective will help encourage them to trim more regularly while also encouraging farmers who are still illegally docking to switch to trimming.

Future plans

Through consumer feedback this project had received a lot of interest from a design perspective, in the agricultural sector and from individual farmers. I have had several farmers expressing interest to test the design. Further prototyping, testing, evaluation and user feedback will need to be undertaken for the product to come to a well resolved working prototype. I hope to gain financial support to help fund the next phase of this project’s development as this will help enable collaboration with product engineers.


Fieldays innovation awards 2020

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