Activity-monitoring systems enable farmers to monitor individual cow and overall herd eating time. These systems send alerts when a cow’s eating time drops or when it’s lower than the herd average. The alert empowers the farmer to intervene, adjust the feed plan, call a veterinarian or pencil out a new dry cow feeding program. Early intervention can result in improved eating time and cows that breed back sooner.
Eating activity and milk production
Eating data from activity-monitoring systems can also indicate a healthy lactation. Low eating time during the dry period can be an early indicator for lost body condition, low milk production, diseases and/or longer time to first insemination during lactation. Feed plan adjustments can be made based on eating time data and desired milk production.
On one farm in the study, fresh heifer milk production was underperforming compared to older cows. Activity-monitoring data showed cows spent 24% of the day eating, which is normal. Upon ruling out eating time as an issue, the farmer dug deeper and observed that older, more aggressive cows at the feedbunk were sorting the roughage. As a result, fresh heifers weren’t getting the right nutrients.
Activity-monitoring data showed immediate desirable changes after the farmer changed his feeding strategy to eliminate sorting. The changes included increased rumination time, increased lying time and less competition at the feedbunk. Younger cows received a better balance of nutrients to help maximize milk production. Average milk production for first-lactation cows increased by 4%.
In this real-life example, activity-monitoring data told the farmer fresh heifer eating time was normal. Normal eating time pointed to a potential feed nutrient issue, which he identified visually and was confirmed with sensor data. The data also enabled the farmer to monitor the immediate impact of the management change. This demonstrates how sensor data generates value when paired with farmer knowhow on feeding strategy, feed management and pen characteristics.
Chewing activity and ketosis, hypocalcemia incidence