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Innovations contribute to dairy farmers' returns
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The growing size of dairy farms is making it increasingly difficult to maintain attention for individual cows. CowManager's innovative monitoring system introduces a sense of calm and control, thanks to its unique combination of ear temperature and cow behaviour. "We want to offer optimal support to livestock farmers by continuously innovating."

CowManager monitors farmers' livestock 24/7. Farmers no longer risk missing anything, which benefits the well-being of the cow and production. “What makes our system so innovative? Our system is in the cow's ear. We were the first to come up with this system." We are talking to Koen van Meurs, head of Research & Product Development at CowManager.

Complete behaviour
"Measuring the ear temperature gives you clear insight into how the cow is feeling. In addition, it helps to accurately map head movements, and thus the cow's behaviour. If an animal has health issues, this show in its behaviour, but also in its ear temperature. By combining this in the health module, we are able to notice if something is wrong with a cow up to 2 days earlier. This allows for timely intervention and limits subsequent damage.”

Eating, rumination, rest and activity are important indicators of behaviour. The system reports if the behaviour deviates from what a cow normally does. “In the feeding module, we link the behaviour of individual cows to groups of cows. This enables us to delve a little deeper into the transition period, so that farmers can properly analyse how their cows are behaving during this important period. The right care during the transition period ensures a good start of lactation.”

The fertility module allows CowManager to accurately tell when a cow is in heat and how far along she is in that respect. "This enables livestock farmers to choose the insemination time very precisely," says Van Meurs. “In addition, the fertility module combines data from our sensors with data from other management systems. As a result, it is easier to detect animals with disrupted cycles or rejects, for example. This contributes to a herd with a low average number of days in lactation and a short calving interval.”

Combining data streams
CowManager has established links with management systems around the world, so farmers only have to enter information in one place. “By combining two data streams, additional information also becomes available with the CowManager alerts, for example, calving date or insemination time. This enables faster diagnosis.”

CowManager wants to further intensify its cooperation with external parties. Van Meurs explains why: “For example, farmers don't really have the time to type in a list of cows in heat in their selection portal every day. By working with selection portal suppliers, we can automatically send animals that require attention to selection portals. These cows are set aside after milking, without the need for the farmer to intervene.”

We also often create innovations in our system in response to market demands. “We take our customers' input very seriously. With regard to controlling the selection portals, we have created extensive filtering options at the request of our customers, such as the possibility to select specific sick cows and cows in heat. By literally working together with livestock farmers, we can continue to innovate and develop products that catch on.

Plug and play
Convenience and accessibility are paramount in this respect. The sensor is simple, quick and safe to apply. When a cow leaves the farm, the sensor is easily removed and applied to a different cow. Everything should work according to the plug-and-play principle, without time-consuming installation. “Farmers don't need to pull cables in the barn,” says Van Meurs. “Our system runs on an existing computer. Livestock farmers can perform the installation themselves, so that installation costs are kept low. The costs for peripherals are also low.”

CowManager is easy to scale up and maintain. Updates are free of charge and run automatically. “All our hardware, including the sensors, can be updated remotely. Livestock farmers do not have to lift a finger for this. In addition, we update our web application and mobile app fortnightly, while translating our customers' wishes into improvements in our software. This is also free of charge and customers do not have to do anything for it.” 

Family business
At CowManager, innovation is in the genes. Van Meurs experienced the company's development up close. Ten years ago, he worked on the development of an innovative monitoring system with ten colleagues. The system is now in use worldwide. As a result, the workforce has grown to fifty employees at the company which is based in Harmelen, the Netherlands. "But we are still a real family business," says Van Meurs.

A dairy farm is located immediately behind the office. “This is also one of the barns where we test all our innovations extensively. We leave nothing to chance. The advantage of developing these innovations is that many colleagues have their roots in the agricultural sector and understand what farmers need.”

More data and links
In the long term, CowManager expects to be able to measure even more aspects of the cow itself. “With smart algorithms, we can show this to customers in a well-organised manner. We already have an enormous database with cow data and believe that we can generate even more links from it. This is not about the amount of data, but about extracting the right information. If we present this information in an organised way, we can support livestock farmers and contribute to their returns even more.”

In December, CowManager was voted the winner of the Agribusiness Award 2019. The jury praised the 'special product that uses complex data effectively.'

For more information, please visit www.cowmanager.com or follow CowManager on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. If you have any questions, please contact AgroVision, our dealer, on www.agrovision.nl.

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