MSD Animal Health has recently launched a new integrated SenseHub Dairy milk monitoring system.

The new system measures somatic cell count (SCC) and milk yield and quality data on each milking unit.

The products were launched recently on Eamon Sheehan’s farm at Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny.

Adding to the well-known existing reproduction and health detection SenseHub collars, the new technology will provide additional insights on SCC and milk data such as milk yield, fat, protein, lactose, blood and conductivity.

All of this incorporated with the SenseHub drafting system (Allflex drafting gates), the SenseHub Dairy system can now facilitate a fully connected farm data system.

MSD hopes to create significant cost and labour savings for the farmer, while improving milk quality and overall udder health.

Data collection

Opening the MSD event, Jack O’Connor, ruminant business unit director at MSD Animal Health, outlined the many challenges that face Irish dairy farmers in coming years and how data collection will help combat these challenges by helping decision making.

“If farmers cannot measure what is going on in the milking parlour, it is very hard for them to improve it. The SenseHub Dairy Ecosystem is designed to be farmer-centric with all of the data and information available in one place to allow farmers to make timely, data-driven management decisions while allowing them to farm with more freedom” said Jack.

“The power of this technology is that it gives farmers the tools to be able to assess what is going on at an individual cow level, as well as at herd level.

“Although the industry has made great progress in adopting technology on farms over the last few years, the use of data is still at a very early stage, but the possibilities are endless, and we look forward to continuing to add to the SenseHub Dairy portfolio in the coming years.”

Traffic light system

The in-line SCC sensor can be simply fitted to any parlour. It uses a traffic light system based on what level of SCC a cow is reading. Green is any cow with an SCC under 200.

Green-amber is between 200-400, amber is 401-800, amber-red is 801-2m and red is anything above 2m.

At the beginning of milking a 2ml sample is taken from each cow and within two minutes of milking the light will flash with the correct colour. The SCC sensor was described as an automated CMT test, as milk is mixed with CMT reagent and then dumped.

The in-line milk plus sensor is a much smaller conductivity tester. It can be calibrated with the bulk tank results to get a more accurate reading of what each cow is producing.

It was said on the day that this was not to substitute traditional milk recording but complement it instead, creating more data throughout the lactation.

In-line SCC sensor where CMT reagent is mixed with milk to determine the SCC.

Cara Sheridan, Ruminant Integration Manager at MSD said “the new technology allows us to connect cow behaviours and milking information giving farmers useable insights in real time.

"We now have the ability to collect data from every single milking, from every single cow.

“The SenseHub SCC Sensor not only provides a visual alert during milking to allow for prompt intervention with cows with high SCC, but the data is also sent to the SenseHub system allowing farmers to use this information for udder health management; whether that is in the short-term drafting cows for examination or to separate them to avoid spread or long term for dry cow treatment selection and/or culling.

“While the milking tech allows for immediate intervention it is important to point out there is no interruption to milking time due to the in-line technology.”

SenseHub monitoring technology collects data from cows through a transponder on a neck collar which will relay information back to a controller box. In turn, this will send an alert to the farmer’s SenseHub app.

SenseHub is also fully integrated with the Allflex and Saber drafting gate which allows for automatic separation of cows in need of attention.

MSD hopes to offer both upfront and subscription-based payment options to allow for purchase of equipment.

The in-line SCC sensor will cost approximately €1,500-1,600 per unit while the in-line milk plus sensor will range from €900-1,300 per unit depending on the milking parlour design and scale.

Either technology can work independent of the other so farmers don’t need to buy both for it to work.

The data from each individual cow is sent back to a database where farmers can access on the SenseHub app.

Neither technology is ICAR approved but MSD is still working to get this over the line in future.

Eamon Sheehan was one of the farmers who piloted the new technology on his 200-cow dairy farm in Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny for this milking season.

On the day, Eamon spoke on the benefits: “As a farmer, if I can’t measure something, I can’t manage it. The dairy industry has been very exciting over the last few years with the amount of investment in technology.

"Having SenseHub milking technology installed is a step forward in running our farm as best as we possibly can. It enables me to have real-time data whether I am on or off farm.”