Plan-do-check-act: improve your feed management using data
In the results analysis of the dairy farm, dairy farmer Rudie Lammers and his vet point out something striking: the average daily production of the heifers is lower than that of the older cows. They have an idea as to what lies behind this, but want to confirm this with reliable data. They put it to the test.
Together with his parents, Rudie Lammers runs a dairy farm in Eibergen, The Netherlands with 140 dairy cows. Rudie is the type of dairy farmer who likes to have everything just right and strives for improvement. In doing so, he uses the data available at his farm and his observations from the pen.
For example, the data analysis showed that the heifers had an average daily production of 43kg, while the older cows had an average of 45. This is striking because, given the genetic potential, the heifers should score higher. In addition to the slightly lower production of the heifers, the milk persistence of all cows also appeared to be insufficient, as they fell quite considerably in production. “I had an idea why that was,” says Rudie. “When I fed the cows roughage with the feed doser wagon in the morning, it got very busy at the feed fence. We only have feeding space at the feed fence for 80% of the cows. The dominant, older cows displace the heifers in order to be the first to pick out the tastiest roughage. The heifers have to do with the leftovers.”
A data-based plan
Together with veterinarian Eelke Raven, Rudie makes a plan. Eelke explains: “We first wanted a good analysis of the initial situation and placed a video camera in the feed corridor. We also viewed the sensor data in Nedap CowControl. Rudie uses the SmartTag Neck and Leg from Nedap daily for heat detection, health monitoring and locating of the cows. But they tell so much more about the behaviour of his cattle: they also record feeding, ruminating and lying time. This showed that the cows were busy feeding for 24% of the day, which is quite a long time compared to other farms. In addition, the cows spent 40% of their day ruminating and 46% lying. Analysis of the camera images indicated that the older cows at the feed fence were mainly busy selecting and moving the roughage and that the heifers were not involved. The data and the images confirmed our idea that the heifers probably perform less well because they do not get the right roughage mixture. It was time to try out a feed mixer wagon on a trial basis.”
Mix roughage using a feed mixer wagon
The cows had to get used to it in the first days. Selecting no longer made sense, now that the roughage was mixed well before arriving at the feed fence. The camera images showed a difference after just a few days. Rudie clearly noticed: “Only 60% of the feeding places were occupied at the same time. There was plenty of room for the heifers to gather round too.” The sensor data confirmed that picture. “Whereas we had previously seen a peak in the number of cows at the feed fence around feeding time, it was now more spread out throughout the day,” the farmer noted in satisfaction.
Sensors show immediate effect
The sensors immediately showed a clear trend. The average eating time decreased from 24% of the day to 21%. “At first, you think this isn’t good,” says the dairy farmer, “but the amount of feed they ingested remained the same.” The rumination time remained approximately the same at 41%. And the lying time increased slightly to 49%. “The higher feeding time was thus connected with selection behaviour,” concluded the dairy farmer and the veterinarian. “Now that selection is no longer an option, all cows have more time for their primary need: lying down and ruminating. And that is good news for milk production,” the veterinarian claims.
Change in behaviour
- Average eating time decreased: 24% to 21%
- Rumination time maintained: 41%
- Lying time increased: 47% to 49%
Feed management adjusted
The feed mixer wagon trial proved successful and, based on the initial results, Rudie purchased a one. After three months, the effect on feeding, lying and ruminating times as demonstrated immediately by the SmartTags, also translated into increased milk production. The heifers now achieve the same or slightly above the average daily production of the older cows. The average milk production of all cows increased by 10% to 9,900 litres/cow with 4.3% fat and 3.7% protein. “Normally, you have to wait much longer for the effect of a management change. Thanks to the SmartTags, I saw the difference in behaviour immediately. Based on this data, I can respond more quickly, make decisions sooner and implement them at our farm. That gives me a good handle on things,” the dairy farmer concludes enthusiastically.
Do you also want to be in control of your dairy farm and see the effect of changes in your (feed) management in well-arranged dashboards? Then find your Nedap CowControl distributor or feel free to contact us.Find your distributor ›