Kirsten French, Resale Product Advisor, Genex
When managing only a few cows, the signs of a negative health, nutrition or cow comfort event or even signs of estrus can be fairly easy to spot. As dairies have grown in number of cows, it has become more difficult to monitor each cow closely and yet still achieve efficient production. Even those with smaller operations have found difficulty trying to manage individual cows while fulfilling other duties. Technological advancements, however, have brought individual cow monitoring back to the forefront. With technology like SCR Heatime®, individual monitoring, prevention and early detection have become key once again.
Insight into a Cow's Personal Activity
Through use of the SCR Heatime system's monitors (placed on neck collars), readers (antennas) and a processing platform, one can gain insight into a cow's activity. Two types of monitors are offered: activity-only or rumination and activity monitors.
The activity-only monitors provide an advantage over traditional heat detection methods as they watch for heats 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The monitor tracks the animals movements and establishes its activity baseline. Activity increases related to estrus detection are easily visible on the SCR Heatime system through individual animal activity graphs, color-coded breeding reports or interfaced with dairy management software.
"The activity monitoring is like having another person here to observe heats. It's nice to know exactly when these cows come into standing heat and how long they stay in standing heat." - David Myers, Summerhill, Pennsylvania
Adding rumination information to the heat detection indicators produces a powerful management tool for improved cow reproduction and health. That's why some producers choose the combination rumination and activity monitors.
"We like the rumination and activity monitors because we can key in on the optimum breeding time for our cows and are able to keep a better watch on the herd's overall health by monitoring their daily rumination." - Andrew Schmidt, Bonduel, Wisconsin
For rumination, the monitor records the number of minutes a cow chew her cud within each two-hour time period. The data is downloaded to the processing platform, and it creates a baseline of activity and rumination for the cow. Sophisticated algorithms analyze the data and create activity and health indices fore ach two-hour period. Deviation from the baseline causes a cow to be flagged and appear on a health report.
The health report is an exceptional tool for an effective and efficient health program. The report flags cows with noticeable deviations from their everyday pattern – deviations caused by less activity and backing off feed. It's an excellent way to gain valuable insight into a cow that simply blends into the herd or to see how a cow acts beyond the headlocks. The report lists cows that need immediate attention, those that should be investigated at some point in the day and those having an "off day."
"We had a cow that started to develop foot rot. Before I even saw her limping, the system showed her decrease in rumination. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with her about 12 hours before visual signs of lameness." - Frank Orner, Rockton, Pennsylvania
Research shows transition health is strongly correlated to health throughout lactation. Therefore, monitoring a cow's rumination in the dry period and through freshening allows a producer to get an early indication of possible health problems. If treated quickly, managers can speed up the recovery or prevent complications in the fresh pen altogether.
"By using SCR we are able to treat our cows the moment they start to get sick and decline in rumination. Having the capability to monitor their rumination efficiently gives our cows a better chance to recover than without the SCR system." - Andrew Schmidt, Bonduel, Wisconsin
Heatime users no longer have to check all cows' temperatures or examine all fresh cows 5-10 days into lactation. Instead, they spend their time with cows flagged by the system. This leads to more focused time in the pens and reduced drug use and lock-up times. Lower lock-up times enable new moms to eat, drink and lay down with more freedom. Additionally, dairies with limited hospital pen space are able to release healthy cows back into the herd earlier, freeing up space and increasing cow comfort.
Over time, users typically notice the system picks up more health incidents than they would have found without it. They also overcome the tendency to overtreat cows; instead, with early detection treatments are often less aggressive and shorter in duration or the decision is made to simply monitor progress and forgo treatment at the current time. This can result in lower veterinary drug expenses and fewer DAs. Remember, early detection is just one of the benefits of rumination monitoring, and cows often react better to early treatment!
"Using the rumination and health indexes, we are able to intervene in mastitis, ketosis and potential DA cases 24-48 hours earlier, which reduces our drug costs and the severity of the event." - Brandon Meddaugh, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
The Solution Leaders
SCR has played a significant role in the development of innovative technological solutions for the dairy industry since 1976. During its first 20 years, SCR focused on developing electro-mechanical devices for dairy farms, such as pulsators and automatic detachers. In recent years, SCR has taken heat detection to the next level. In 2006, SCR began mass marketing these heat detection monitors. Since, the activity monitors have become the bestselling heat detection solution worldwide. In the mid 2000s, SCR pioneered the rumination monitors, which has become increasingly popular. Today, SCR works with Genex to provide productive data on individual cow and group well-being, health, nutrition and reproduction, along with producing a mobile phone app and alerts.