Prairie Star Dairy

John and Meghan Palmer

“CowManager is an invaluable tool for our dairy”


John and Meghan Palmer, the owners of Prairie Star Dairy, Waukon, Iowa milk 120 cows and have 400 acres of crop production along with 200 acres of pasture, with help from their five children. Their milking operation has been certified as organic for several years. In 2015, the Palmers moved into an impressive new free stall barn for improved cow comfort. In December 2016, the Palmer’s purchased a CowManager automated monitoring system with the Fertility and Health modules, which has provided the Palmers with Fertility alerts for cows in heat and Health alerts for cows that appear sick based on a reduction in activity, feeding time and rumination levels. They have SensOors on both cows and heifers.

During the long, cold upper-Midwest winter of 2017-2018, the Palmers were challenged with a spread of pneumonia in their milking cows, caused by the Pasteurella multocida bacteria, which is very contagious and deadly. A common term for this disease in cattle has been termed ‘Shipping Fever’. For the Palmer’s, the value of their investment in CowManager to provide early detection of the pneumonia symptoms was critical in them being able to get early detection of afflicted cows and treat them with organic-approved methods to help maintain their organic status. John Palmer told us that “Initially we had six cows in a sick pen and three of these died despite treatment with antibiotics, but we soon learned based on the data in CowManager, which cows were coming down with pneumonia and we managed to get the rest of the herd through this outbreak. For this issue, the temp alerts available with CowManager were also critical in the diagnosis of cows that needed treatment and was as important to us as the rumination data. Cows that were afflicted didn’t look sick but with a reduction in appetite, declining rumination and elevated temperatures, the CowManager system would flag these cows with a sick alert, which was very helpful.”


Prairy Star Dairy


Left to right: Faith Palmer, John Palmer and Meghan Palmer.


John also added that “at one time during this challenge, we had 16-17 cows that CowManager identified as being sick with the Health module alerts and using the data available with the system was critical to our ability to manage the treatment process. We only ended up with a few cows that we had to use antibiotics to save, which resulted in these cows having to be sold to a conventional dairy. Without the early alerts from CowManager, we would likely have decided to conventionally treat more cows than we needed to, and that saved us from having to cull a larger percentage of our herd, so having the CowManager system available during this health event was a huge benefit for us.”

Meghan commented on the ease of using the CowManager data; “The CowManager mobile app was very helpful when dealing with this challenge, as we could use it to continually monitor treated cows and look for new cows that showed up on the Health alert list. Once we figured out the pattern, we were able to look closely at the hourly data available for individual cows with the CowManager system to see if the treatment regime was working.”

Dr. David Gibbs is the veterinarian for Prairie Star Farm and had these comments about the value of CowManager to help manage this challenge: “CowManager was an incredibly helpful tool during a Pasteurella pneumonia outbreak at John and Meghan's dairy this past winter. The flagged sick cows would appear fine only to examine them and find 106-degree fevers and very early severe pneumonia. CowManager helped limit the herd damage by identifying sick cows before we could have by simply doing a walk through.”

When discussing their initial investment in CowManager, John said that “We initially purchased CowManager to improve heat detection with the Fertility module, which it has done well but for us the Health module has been a big benefit as well and this incident has made our investment in CowManager well worth it.” Mehgan also summed up their investment in CowManager by saying “CowManager is a great fit for Organic herds. We certainly are grateful for its function in helping us navigate through this situation, but we also love it for its effectiveness in monitoring fresh cows, cows off feed, and heats. CowManager is an invaluable tool to us and has proven its worth through daily use besides this unfortunate event.

John and Meghan Palmer – Prairie Star Dairy