Why monitor individual cows?
Every dairy farmer knows cows do not behave in the same way around the clock, nor do they consistently produce the same quality or quantity of milk. This variance can be due to stress, sickness, the onset of estrus, changes in food quality, and a host of other factors. A cow’s eating and rumination patterns (activity) offer a window into what is happening with a cow behind the scenes. This information can give farmers valuable insight into why changes in productivity are happening.
As every dairy farmer wants his/her farm to perform to the highest level, it pays to track eating and rumination patterns so that any changes can be dealt with appropriately and any issues or problems can be quickly remedied. In today’s business arena, managers and CEOs know that data offers the key to enhancing productivity. Or, as some like to say, “if you can measure it, you can improve it.” It is no different in the realm of farming. By gathering eating and rumination data, farmers have the information they need to care for their animals more effectively, quickly identify and treat sick animals, respond to immediate challenges, select better animals for breeding, and more. The result will be significant performance benefits for the entire farm. The problem to date has been a lack of equipment for gathering this much-needed information – especially in a large herd. Fortunately, advances in Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) technologies are making it easier.
Easy ways to track cow activity
Advances in technology make it possible for farmers to use sensors and tracking devices to collect data about individual cow activity patterns without them having to be in the field 24/7. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on metrics that can be readily gathered using “AfiCollar” – an automated activity monitoring device for dairy cows developed by leaders in dairy farm technology, Afimilk. AfiCollar is a simple and unobtrusive sensor worn around the neck of each cow that monitors and records eating and rumination patterns around the clock. The collected data is transmitted wirelessly to Afimilk’s farm management software solution AfiFarm where farmers can access it at any time and use it to make informed management decisions.
Performance benefits of activity tracking
By using AfiCollar, farmers can make the following significant improvement to the health, wellbeing, and production levels of the herd:
Improve the welfare status or quality of life – Farmers can predict, detect and treat disease in a timely manner. Both rumination and eating time is different for healthy and sick animals. Monitoring these metrics in individual cows allows farmworkers to readily notice fluctuations in the eating patterns (e.g. a consistently lower grazing time) and investigate whether the animal might be unhealthy, lame, or unwell. Early detection leads to timely treatment which will help farmers keep healthier herds in the long run.
Improve oestrus detection and rate of conception – Both grazing and rumination time differ during oestrus. Monitoring these activities can thus help improve accurate detection of oestrus onset leading to improved conception rates and less wastage of valuable resources on failed insemination attempts.
Herd management and profitability – AfiCollar can also reveal additional valuable information. For example, it can identify animals with high grazing time but low productivity, and those with low grazing time and high productivity. This data can be helpful when planning a future herd consisting of more efficient animals. It can also be used to help farmers meet future market demands, breeding cows capable of producing the requested yield and quality of milk.
Overall production efficiency – Monitoring grazing behavior during different seasons and lactation stages can help farmers understand the variations in cow feed requirements over time and better manage feed and pasture resources.
Worth a try?
Today’s farmers have a wealth of technological tools to help them boost farming efficiency and profitability at their disposal. Activity monitoring devices, like AfiCollar, are easy to implement on dairy farms and require very little management once installed. At the same time, they offer enormous value in helping with disease and oestrus detection as well as with overall herd planning and farm management.
Learn more about AfiCollar HERE