May 24, 2021
Automatic heat detection makes life easy
May 24, 2021
The use of an innovative bolus-based heat detection and cow health monitoring system has boosted first and second round conception rates by up to 25% in one Gippsland dairy herd.
Rodney and Steph Goode, who milk about 380 registered Jersey and Holstein cows at Poowong North, adopted the smaXtec system about two years ago.
Developed in Europe, it utilises rumen boluses to monitor body temperature, animal activity and water/feed intake around-the-clock as a means of predicting heat, calving, heat stress and a range of illnesses, such as mastitis, lameness or pneumonia.
Data is collected by sensors mounted in the dairy or around the farm and then transferred to a base station via repeaters, and ultimately, to a ‘cloud’ database.
Individual cow and herd reports, including alerts and recommended actions, are then forwarded to authorised users instantly via smartphone, tablet or computer.
A second bolus can be administered to a smaller sample of cows to monitor rumen pH as an indicator of sub-clinical acidosis.
Rodney and Steph were quick to adopt the system once it became available in Australia.
Their split autumn-spring calving herd has an average production of 580 kg milk solids, achieved from an intensive grain-based ration and a silage-based PMR in during summer and autumn.
Like many high production herds, achieving high levels of conception early in the lactation can be difficult.
“We were looking to improve our heat detection,” Rodney says.
“We employ a lot of backpackers and it’s not realistic to be relying on them for heat detection.
“Automation makes the process incredibly accurate and as easy as possible.
“The data for each cow is uploaded to our Easy Dairy herd management system as soon as it comes into the dairy.
“Any cow that is on heat is automatically drafted after milking so there is no chance of missing a heat.
“I’d say we’ve increased our 60-day pregnancy rates by 25%.”
The smaXtec system also plays a major role in the Goode’s mastitis program.
The Goodes’ ‘front-line’ defence is an automatic teat dipping and flushing system installed in their 25-a-side swing-over Herringbone dairy.
“This system has had an obvious improvement in the health of our cows,” Rodney says.
“Teat condition has improved, with very little cracking; there has been a significant reduction in somatic cell count; and we have nearly halved our clinical cases of mastitis.
“This has direct economic benefits – we have reduced our use of antibiotics, the need for veterinary intervention and our cows are staying in the herd longer.
“Plus, it saves time.
“There are only two of us working here full-time so having fewer cases of mastitis means we can get other things done.
“I reckon we save about 20 minutes each milking and that adds up to more than four hours every week.
“Like our heat detection system, it’s fully automatic so we get the same result no matter who’s working in the dairy each day.”
smaXtec forms the second line of defence against mastitis by detecting any cows with an elevated temperature.
“Whenever we get a temperature alert, mastitis is the first thing we test for and that means we can treat before there are any clinical symptoms,” he says.
“Overall, smaXtec has easily paid for itself several times over.
“We are about to install a second sensor down in the paddock so we can get a better handle on the heat status of our cows in real time rather than twice-daily.
“Sometimes the mating window can be only a matter of hours, so being able to detect heat earlier will allow us to get cows mated at the best time.”