How One Farmer Uses AfiSort and Weigh to Upgrade his Farm
Nigel Lok’s South African dairy farm, Robhoek, is situated in the Tsitsikamma region of the Eastern Cape. The farm is home to 1800 dairy cattle, with 1200 Holstein cows calving annually. Robhoek is spread across 240 hectares of irrigated ryegrass pasture and plants 60 hectares of maize for silage annually.
Nigel uses the AfiSort and Weigh system which identifies, weighs, and sorts the cows according to where they should go at each milking. Sort and Weigh helps Nigel achieve important efficiency targets on the farm.
Precision Management by Cow Weight
To get the maximum value out of each cow, it is essential to know the weight of each animal on a daily basis. But the weight itself is only part of the picture. There is a huge natural variation in weight and it’s entirely possible for the lightest cow in the herd to be half the weight of the heaviest and still be healthy. Therefore, weight-based calculations must be made as a percentage of each cow’s optimal predicted weight and not according to a standardized weight chart.
On Robhoek, a series of weight calculations allows Nigel to get the maximum out of each cow at each stage. All necessary measurements and weight calculations are automatically performed by the AfiSort and AfiWeigh system following each milking session, requiring minimal input from farmworkers.
Optimum insemination weight – To achieve the best results from insemination, heifers and cows must be at their optimum weight. On Robhoek, heifers are artificially inseminated at 58% of their predicted adult mass at 14 months. As the optimal weight of each heifer is different, AfiFarm’s algorithm calculates this weight for each individual heifer, ensuring that each one is inseminated at the right time. This method has been critical to maintaining the success of Robhoek’s insemination program.
Optimum calving weight – Nigel focuses much attention on cows in the transition phase. He has determined that these cows should be calved at a body condition score (BCS) of 3.25 according to the standard European system in order to achieve good results. Afimilk allows him to monitor BCS with speed and ease.
Dry cow weight gain – It is imperative to closely monitor the weight of dry cows to ensure that they maintain their BCS and thus their health. Most dairy farms weigh cows at each milking and it is important to be alert to the expected results and take note of any deviations. For example, a dry cow that weighs 500kg at dry-off and is still 500kg at calving might be deemed healthy by many farms. But, as 75% of fetal growth occurs in the last few weeks before birth, this is actually not healthy. By having an electronic system to monitor these subtle changes, Nigel can be alerted to any issues much faster and more reliably.
Why AfiSort and Weigh?
Once you know the weight of every cow at each milking, you can devise targets and protocols to meet your goals as Nigel Lok does on Robhoek. Additionally, the Sorting feature automatically directs the cows to where they need to go, minimizing reliance on on-the-ground personnel.