Dairy farming has become an extremely precise technical and measured business. We’ve bought into the measuring of inputs and outputs on the farm.
The grass is measured weekly. Feed and fertiliser are controlled and outputs of milk, animals and slurry are all quantified and understood. The financial budgets are kept up to date so that the business model is transparent.
If you are lucky enough to have a son or daughter following in your footsteps; then you have to contemplate changes to the business
We have a pretty basic milking parlour without the bells and whistles of other systems. It gets the milking done efficiently. We’ve grown the herd.
That’s a lot of boxes ticked but a business that isn’t growing or changing can only stagnate.
Here’s where the next generation comes in. If you are lucky enough to have a son or daughter following in your footsteps; then you have to contemplate changes to the business.
The calving season is over and the breeding season has started. Early in January, my husband Tim mentioned that our son Colm was investigating a heat detection system for the cows. More exploration needed to be done. It was expensive but probably worth the investment.
More importantly, Colm was convinced that it was the next step for the business.
In time, the more accurate heat detection will lead to a tighter calving pattern and better results from sexed semen
That was how I was first introduced to “the new generation of cow monitoring” called SenseHub by Allflex. Over the next few weeks I learned the benefits. We would no longer need to use stock bulls which are a safety concern for us. The slurry storage requirement would also drop or a bull could be replaced with a cow.
In time, the more accurate heat detection will lead to a tighter calving pattern and better results from sexed semen. This will allow us to use more beef AI on lower genetic merit dairy cows.
The system would also monitor the health status of each individual cow and flag when a cow needed attention. The decision to invest was made.
On a family farm, everyone gets a job
An automatic drafting gate was part of the investment for Woodside but not for the leased farm. Then the practicalities began of installing and getting to know the system. Each cow has a collar with the sensor on it. We got the cow numbers for the collars so that cows don’t need to be freeze branded, causing them unnecessary stress.
Colm’s fiancée, Elaine spent several evenings assembling the numbers on the collars. On a family farm, everyone gets a job.
On the day of collar fitting, Elaine had all her collars lined up on the gates ready for each cow. Colm and the student that works with him, Jack, put on the collars while Tim fed the cows into the crush. Elaine and I handed over the collars while Elaine made sure the special identification number for each cow tallied with the cow’s number in the data base on the computer and the phone.
Tim, Colm and I have the app on our phones. There is a sensor on top of the cow shed that reads the information so most of the data is collected at milking times.
It’s probably too early to make an assessment of SenseHub. Every new technology has teething problems and it takes a while for everything to run smoothly. The support seems to be there from the company. The data on the phone is visual and accurate.
Tim spent days poring over catalogues trying to find bulls with high EBI figures for the herd
While Tim wasn’t overly enthusiastic about twice a day AI; the information on the phone can’t be denied so he finds himself just doing it. Colm was going to do it twice a day from the start. We are using some straws of sexed semen. Tim spent days poring over catalogues trying to find bulls with high EBI figures for the herd.
Unfortunately, the availability of sexed semen with high EBI figures is quite limited. The technology is there so one wonders why this is the case? Until this problem is addressed, farmers won’t use a lot of sexed semen.
There’s no need for tail painting or hours of observation
It will take a while to trust the new system, but so far it is definitely better than what we were doing. There’s no need for tail painting or hours of observation. The cows for insemination can be decided over breakfast using the phone.
The drafting gate reduces the workload and time spent drafting out cows at milking time. It is far too soon to comment on the health alerts until we’ve had some actual cow events to report. So for now, the aim will be to equal or maybe beat last year’s figures. It is very exciting. I will keep you posted.