“You don’t want to get busier on your farm”
It’s a common morning routine for many: checking your mobile phone for the latest emails and news. Dairy farmers rather check something else first: the heat and health status of their cows. Just like these dairy farmers who are all working with Nedap CowControl. “It’s all about creating peace of mind”.
In the morning and afternoon, just before the milking starts, Brian Mooney checks his phone to see which cows are in heat and ready for insemination. Mooney runs a spring pasture based dairy farm with 220 cows with 100 hectares of land in Kill, County Waterford, Ireland. The cows are connected to the Nedap CowControl system, a cow monitoring system that continuously tracks the cow behaviour and notifies him of heat and health issues on the herd.
“Last night I got a notification at 9 o’clock that a cow has a possible health issue. So I went out and saw that she was indeed not well. I brought her in and treated her for grass tetany. Now I don’t know if she ever had grass tetany or not, but in the morning she was 100% fit again. Without the early alert I could have a cow down in the field this morning or maybe a dead cow”, Brian explains.
“You don’t want to get busier”
Mooney’s farm has been growing over the years, just like many dairy operations all over the world. An extra staff member is not always an option to manage and watch the cows. The use of cow sensor technology can ease the workload for seasonal calving and grass based systems like Mooney’s to guarantee that the cows are closely monitored 24/7 for heat, health and grazing time. Mooney explains: “Having a cow monitoring system in place is just like having another person watching your cows. You’re watching them yourself, but herds are so big nowadays. You’re going to miss things, you’re just not going to see everything so you just need an extra hand. It’s not how it changes it, it’s how it keeps things the same. The farm has changed and the farm has gotten bigger. You want to be able to stay the same, not get busier and get more labor units”.
“Whatever way you look at it, it’s more profit”
John Phelan doesn’t mince his words when asked what he thinks is the biggest benefit of Nedap CowControl. “It doesn’t miss a cow that’s bulling. Every cow that is in heat is picked up.” Phelan is running a 166-dairy cows farm in Thurles, county Tipperary, Ireland but planning to go to maybe 190 or 200. He is aware of the effects of good fertility on the farm’s profitability. “The more cows you calf, the sooner, the better.” While improved fertility was the main driver of choosing Nedap CowControl, health monitoring has proven its value on the farm. Phelan estimates the investment in the system paid for itself within two to three years. “Mainly because you’re getting more cows in calf earlier.” Improved fertility results are significant on John’s farm. “Conception rates are up, last year we came close to 70% first service. This year is looking better already. More compact calving equals more milk in the tank. Higher submission rates, higher conception rates, more cows calving earlier, more compact calving, higher milk solids per hectare. Whatever way you look at it, it’s more profit. And less work, you don’t have to go watch the cows. It takes care of it, watching them all day, every day. ” More profit is also what dairy farmer Enda Doran from County Roscommon, in the west of Ireland experiences when using Nedap CowControl. “I check the system on my phone before I leave the house in the morning. And it will alert me to what cows are cycling and in heat, and the optimum time they should be inseminated. We find with missed cycles that there is a loss in production of an average of €250 (or $277) per cow. If you take this in account, the investment in the system is paid back within a short time”.
Data available at all times
Also in Australia it is a continuous challenge to keep a close eye on cows in grazing systems. Evan Williams runs a 300-cow family-based dairy farm in Yannathan, Victoria with 200 hectares of land with his wife Sheriden, their daughter Georgie and her husband Graeme Lowndes. They use Nedap technology in the form of GEA’s CowScout monitoring system. It is part of the GEA robotic milking system and powered by Nedap.
Nedap partners with a range of leading companies in milking equipment and genetics who integrate their identification and animal monitoring solutions in the products and services they offer to farmers. This way their solutions are powered by Nedap technology. “With this technology, the cows wear CowScout tags that track their heat activity, eating, rumination and inactive behavior. Evan shows how the data is presented: “It’s on our phones and on our PCs. So it just made our farm get a lot closer to us and we can keep track of the health of our cows.”
100% trust in the system
With the introduction of the automated system, the daily working routine changed on the farm. Graeme explains the difference: “Basically we used to check the cows as they would come on the milking platform. If we saw cows that would normally come on first and then were down towards the back of the yard, we would know that there’s something wrong with them.” Now Graeme starts his day by checking the computer to see if there are any cows in the health report. The system registers the behavior of the cows, presents clear attention lists and sends out notifications directly via emails or through the app in urgent situations. “Checking those data takes us only a couple of minutes. It allows us more time with the kids or with the family.” Sheriden is also very convinced of the benefits. I would definitely miss the system if it wasn’t there anymore. I have learned to just 100% rely on the system. Because I know it’s working for us”, Graeme explains.
Improving farm efficiency
For farms that synchronize the cows, it is extremely important to be able to rely on accurate heat detection. For Australian dairy farmer Scott McKillop from Dederang, Victoria, the use of his Alta COW WATCH system, which is also powered by Nedap, is the key to better reproduction results and higher work efficiency. “When you are using a synchronization program, you have so many cows on heat at the same time”, says McKillop. He has a dairy farm with three hundred and seventy dairy cows.
From the beginning of March to the end of May, about three hundred cows calve at the same time, from mid-August to the end of September, another seventy will follow. This means that just as many cows are in heat and inseminated at the same time. With the aim of improving efficiency on the dairy farm and obtaining more data to make better decisions, the dairy farmer chose Alta COW WATCH.
“This system gives us a lot more insight into the heat of cows and their health., saving a lot of time. “With this system you clearly get the optimal time to inseminate.
So that just simplified the whole system significantly and really made a big difference to our time management and use of our labor on our farm.
McKillop also uses the insights into the eating, rumination and activity pattern. “If you see a decrease in feed intake or an increase in inactivity, this could indicate an infection or illness in the cow or an incentive to change the ration. Discovering the reasons why you should or should not do something is a really strong part of this system.”
Investing in technology helps companies move forward. But that investment must ultimately pay off. Scott estimates the payback time of the Alta COW WATCH system, powered by Nedap CowControl, at approximately three years. Thanks to COW WATCH, he has managed to organize the labor at this single person operation in a smarter way and getting more cows in calf. “It’s difficult to put a value on the health of the animals, but I would say the payback time is comfortably within three years”, says Scott. “We can’t imagine not having the system right now. It’s part of our everyday management on the farm. It helps take a lot of guesswork out of what you’re doing. It’s really the cream on the cake. Or rather: the cream on top of the milk”, he concludes.
The top 10 key benefits of working with Nedap CowControl:
- Higher cure rate and faster recovery mastitis
- Higher % first service conception
- Reduced repeat rates
- Less labor needed for same amount of cows
- More peace of mind and more family time
- Improved in-calf rates
- Time savings on visual heat detection
- Improved milk production
- Better farm profitability
- ROI within 2-3 years
The Nedap technology can be fitted to each type of farm and the farmer’s demands, and can be integrated in other equipment or sold as a stand alone system. Nedap has strong business partners in countries whith many pasture-based dairy farms like Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. Get in touch with them to learn more.
.About Nedap CowControl