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CowManager and Milk Robots: A Strong Combination at Ekodorp
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Matthijs de Ruiter is herdmanager at Ekodorp, an organic dairyfarm (A2A2) in Alphen aan den Rijn (the Netherlands). They milk around 220 cows including dry cows. All cows have a CowManager sensor. From the moment the heifers are in the final stage of their pregnancy, they get one. Besides the dairy herd, the business is also focused on their methane digester and crop farming.

The dairy has been working with CowManager since April 2018, in combination with three robots which have been there a bit longer. Matthijs tells that when they purchased the robots, they consciously didn’t invest in a cow monitoring system because they thought it was too big of an investment at that time. However, then CowManager came about. “We were like; we would like to try it. So, we started using it and we haven’t regretted it a single day” according to Matthijs. The cow identification in the robots is still done by collar explains Matthijs: “Technically we could convert the robots so that electronic ear tags can be used for identification. However, we already had collars before we started using CowManager and the collars also serve as visual identification of the cows for ourselves”.

 

Better Monitoring with CowManager
“With CowManager we see things so much earlier than before and you can monitor cows that have been sick much better,” says Matthijs. According to him, sick cows are closely monitored. “If a cow drops further down in ruminating and eating behavior, we give her pain relief. Previously we didn't see this until a cow went down completely. Thanks to CowManager, we are now much earlier in detecting possible sick animals.”

The CowManager system has been set up proactively so dairymen can intervene early because deviations are detected earlier. Matthijs: “We easily earn back the costs of the system because we keep the cows fitter and healthier. As a result, we use fewer antibiotics, have fewer vet visits and less culls. Because of our organic nature, this is an extra big advantage for us.”

 

CowManager & Milk Robots
Matthijs doesn’t have to think long about an example where CowManager was able to quickly detect a recurring problem. “For a while the dry off process didn’t go smoothly. As soon as we dried off a cow, CowManager marked the cow as suspicious. The urge to get milked was too high. Ever since, the cows are milked once a day by the robot a week before we start to dry off a cow. Now everything goes smoothly!”

The combination of CowManager and milk robots works well, says Matthijs. Both CowManager and the robot provide valuable information about each individual cow. The information from both systems is combined and viewed in the app on their phones and on a tablet which is hanging in the robot room. Then it’s determined what to do with a cow if there is a problem. According to Matthijs, this works very well: “You can double check cows. I have an alert in CowManager, and have an incomplete milking at the robot; what does that mean? Perhaps the cow is holding up her milk because she is in heat, or the cow has a suspicious alert. This way you can exchange and compare the information of both systems. The systems can reinforce each other and help us make the right decision at the right time.”

 

Technology & Future
At Ekodorp they work with quite a bit of technology. Besides CowManager and the milk robots, you can find an automatic feed pusher and a barn cleaner on the farm. Matthijs believes in the advantages of using technology on a dairy farm and the optimization that it brings. “Developments continue. Also, at CowManager certain aspects are becoming easier and easier. For example, linking sensors on your phone. And the people at CowManager are open to improvements.” But Matthijs also believes: “Dairying will always have a human aspect. You want to look at that animal yourself too, to check if it’s correct.” At the moment, Ekodorp uses the Fertility and Health module, but according to Matthijs they will definitely consider start using the renewed Nutrition module in the future.

 

Recommended to all farmers
“CowManager is a very accurate and great system to work with”, says Matthijs. “It’s clear and gives a good overview, all cows are in there. You can work with lists of your close-up cows, open cows, fresh cows, young stock that needs to go to the bull. CowManager shows everything. So, I would definitely recommend it.”

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