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Jul 10, 2019

Dairy trials smaXtec monitoring system

Jul 10, 2019

Developed in Europe, the smaXtec system utilises rumen boluses that records body temperature, animal activity, water/feed intake and rumen pH around-the-clock as a means of predicting heat, calving, heat stress or a range of illnesses, such as mastitis, acidosis or pneumonia.

A recent convert is Nathan Shannon, who manages his family’s 800-cow operation outside Katunga, Victoria. “Heat detection is one of my ‘profit drivers’,” he says. “When I came home eight years ago, our pregnancy rate was about 50 percent.

“Initially, I thought it was due to poor insemination technique, so I did an AI course and took over the mating program. Things didn’t improve significantly, so we improved nutrition and cow health.

“Ultimately it came down to poor heat detection, so we invested in a collar-based heat detection system. This system has increased our submission rate by 15 percent, which has had the biggest single effect on pregnancy rates so far.”

Although he is quite satisfied with his existing system, Nathan welcomed the opportunity to trial the smaXtec system because of the additional information it provides. “We haven’t had any problems with the collars but we’re always keen to know what else is out there and to see what it can do,” he says.

Nathan purchased a set of 24 ‘basic’ and two ‘premium’ boluses last year. The basic bolus monitors body temperature, animal activity and water/feed intake and is administered to all cows.

Nathan says he is impressed by the accuracy of the smaXtec system. “It’s as good as the collars for heat detection, so I would be 100 percent confident using it for this purpose,” he says.

“Healthwise, the temperature alert gives us 24 to 48 hours’ head start in detecting infections like mastitis and pneumonia. We can draft cows out, check them and intervene before they really get sick.

“We’re still trialling the smaXtec system, so we haven’t installed any remote sensors or repeaters. This means we’re only getting alerts twice a day when the cows come into the dairy.

“However, if we go ahead with this, I can see us putting boluses in all of our heifers a month before calving and installing remote monitors in strategic areas, such as the calving paddock and near the water trough in the daily pasture allocation paddock.

“I get up two or three times a night during calving. With smaXtec, I’d be confident waiting for a calving alert before going to out to the paddock as I found the system to be quite accurate.”

Nathan says the smaXtec system is more expensive than collars but is price-competitive to what’s at stake. “It costs about $2000 to bring a heifer into the dairy and I expect them to last four lactations,” he says.

“This technology quickly can quickly pay for itself if it helps to increase pregnancy rates through better heat detection or reduce my attrition rate through better health management.”

Nathan worked as a dairy extension officer with the Victorian Department of Primary Industries for five years after completing his bachelor of agricultural science degree from Melbourne University.