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"We're Spending 10 Minutes a Day Heat Detecting, Instead of 6 Hours"

Written by Richard Meredith.
When you are doing heat detection on more than 1000 cows with up to a six full time and part time staff, the chances of missing a few are very high. Missed and false heats have been part of dairy life at joining time. But with margins in dairy farming getting tighter, poor heat detection comes at a cost. Brett Membrey, a fifth-generation dairy farmer who farms with his parents and brother at Naringal near Warrnambool, has been using CowManager for five years and knows they are getting more cows in calf, and earlier with accurate heat detection.

Easy to Use
Brett says he chose the CowManager system because it is simple to use, very accurate, a one-person job to attach and detach the tag, and is less likely to be lost or damaged than a collar. The CowManager ear tag clips over the NLIS tag on the cow’s ear. It is scanned on a mobile phone and the cow number is recorded. Data is then continually sent back to the computer via mobile routers that are spread across the farm. Either the computer program or mobile app then displays the cows on heat, days since last heat, and the beginning time of the heat. From here it’s a two-minute job to put those cows on draft for insemination.

Labor Saving and Cost Reducing
“Ease of use is the key,” Brett said. “We’re definitely inseminating cows that are in heat, and at the correct stage of heat, and saving semen on not inseminating those cows that might be on. We are not missing those cows with short heats either. I liken the accuracy of the system to having new kmars or scratchies applied each day.” In the past, trying to do heat detection with kmars and observations during milking, with so many cows going through the rotary, they were bound to miss a few.

“We were spending six to seven hours a day heat detecting while milking, instead of 10 minutes a day with CowManager - and now we’re getting it right. With different staff members milking each day, the chances of missing heats or drafting cows not on heat increased dramatically.” “With CowManager taking the focus away from heat detection during milking means staff can now focus on milking and mastitis detection, which is both a labor saving, and cost reduction picking up mastitis and herd health events quicker.” World Wide Sires technicians undertake the initial inseminations from a mating program, with Brett conducting the inseminations for the remainder of the joining period.

The CowManager system can also be used to manage individual cow nutrition and cow health, and although he has not used it to date, Brett knows it is an option he can introduce in the future.

Growth Through Simplicity
Since returning to the farm in 2003, Brett has overseen the growth of the operation - up from 350 cows on a milking area of 600 acres to 1200 on 2000 acres inclusive of runoff blocks. A new 50-unit rotary is being built at the opposite end of the farm to the current rotary. In effect, two milking platforms with be operating with staff moving between them. As the dairy farm grows towards 1200 cows in milk and beyond, the importance of a simple accurate method of heat detection is critical to keeping the reproductive program on track and doing it economically.