Cow Technology and Utilising Data

technology on dairy farm

How can we use technology during Repro Season?

You might have seen them, or you might already be using them. Cows with fancy looking ear tags, or in some cases cows wearing collars with strange ornaments on them. These “things” are not there to just look nice, they contain sensors helping farmers to collect data from their cows. They come in pretty handy for farmers and vets alike. 

How do these sensors work?

These sensors all work slightly different, but the end result is the same. The sensors can recognize different activities from a cow such as; eating, ruminating, walking or how active she is. The sensors also measure the temperature of the cow. The sensors are running 24/7 and by continuously monitoring it can give you all kinds of information. For example; It gives you an early alert if an individual cow might have health issues, it can give you alerts for when a cow is on heat but the systems can also provide you information about your herd health in relation to nutrition.

For now, we will just focus on how you can use the data for your reproductive performances.

What to do with the data pre-mating

The sensors can detect when a cow is on heat. So to start with, pre-mating heat checks will be super easy. With only a few clicks in the system, you can see how many of your cows have cycled after calving and how many non-cyclers you have. If this is not reaching your set target 10 days before mating, you can easily make a plan with your KeyVet and discuss your intervention options.

Intervention options can also be used for cycling cows. By using the Why Wait programme you can pull cows a week forward meaning you will eventually get a gain of 7 days of milk in the next season. Setting up the Why Wait programme for the herd with sensors is also only a few clicks (and a phone call with your vet) away.

What to do with the data at mating time

While most cows will have a basic reproductive cycle of 21 days, every cow actually has her own unique cycle. Some cows have a longer cycle, some have shorter cycles, some cows seem like they are on heat forever, while others only show a really short heat. With all these varieties it's pretty hard to pick the right cows for AI.

The programmes behind the sensors will calculate the perfect timing for insemination for every individual cow and will let you know which cows to put up for AI. Most farmers will only AI once a day, however, in some cases, the optimum AI window for a cow has just passed.

This does not mean you shouldn’t inseminate her, there will still be a chance she gets a calf. However, you might not want to use that super expensive exclusive semen you just bought! So basically you can use your data during mating to see which cows have a higher chance to conceive on that particular AI date.

Further analyses

Reproduction is very complex, and there are many contributors to your herd reproductive performance. The sensors will provide an extra opportunity to dive further into some data and can help you to identify any opportunities to improve your reproduction. Give your KeyVet a call and we will happily discuss this with you!

- Femke Bluemink


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