High-Tech Monitoring

January 23, 2014 08:46 PM
 

Mark Rodgers


Mark Rodgers
Dearing, Ga.

Hillcrest Farms is home to four generations of the Rodgers family, plus 420 milking cows and 470 heifers.


 


At Hillcrest, we try to remember the importance of cow comfort in our reproduction program.

In 2009 when we built our freestall barn, we installed rubber belting on all cow alleys to protect feet and legs. As a result, the cows get better traction and show standing heats better. We opted not to install headlocks in order to give easier access to feed and to increase comfort. Since we were not using headlocks, we decided that an Ovsynch program would be impractical.

In 2012, we added Alpro Activity Monitoring, which caused an increase in our conception and pregnancy rates. Prior to this change, we thought we were doing a good job walking through the freestall barn and watching cows. In reality, we did a fair job during the day, and at night, we were totally dependent on heat detection patches or night milkers taking the time to write down a standing heat.

Now, every morning we have a list of all cows that are currently showing high activity. We take that list and walk the freestall barn to look at the cows on the list. It gives us a good idea which cows in what groups may be showing, or have shown, heats in the past 12 hours.

The heat list flags not only high activity, but also highlights in red if the cow has never been bred or is between 18 to 23 days since last heat. Through automated activity monitoring, we are able to pinpoint the hour during which her high activity started and breed her accordingly.

We also track whether the cow recently moved to a new group, as this may also increase her activity level. Cows in heat are sorted using an automated sort gate after leaving the milking parlor or manually sorted into a catch pens on either side of the freestall barn to optimize time the of insemination.

We are currently developing a new facility for raising and breeding heifers on recently acquired property. Our plans for this farm include a covered fence-line feeding facility with headlocks at the feed troughs. We will use Ovsynch on heifers that have not been bred after 21 days of observation.

Rodgers’recent prices

Milk
$23.58 (3.8 bf, 3.1 prt)

Cull cows
$94/cwt.

Springing heifers
$2,200/head

Whole cottonseed
$255/ton

Ground corn
$217/ton

Soybean meal
$508/ton

Citrus pulp
$200/ton
 

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