Source: SCR Dairy
Ten years ago, Brent Moyer would never have imagined he’d be tracking the minutes a cow spends chewing her cud and using that data to make key herd-management decisions. But today, Moyer, manager of Paramount Dairy in Caro, Michigan, is a firm believer in rumination monitoring and its impact on decisions that positively impact the herd’s production and profitability.
Moyer says the unprecedented insight into cow health and reproductive status rumination monitoring offers enables him to manage the 1,200-cow herd in a way he never thought possible. He uses the data in three key ways:
1. Early Indicator of Health Status
Moyer draws on rumination monitoring to identify sick cows before they show visual symptoms and before a drop in milk production occurs.
The dairy has been monitoring rumination for about a year, and Moyer and his staff have come to rely on rumination data as an efficient early warning system for potential interventions. Because rumination activity drops before an animal becomes sick or at the time of estrus, it’s an excellent indicator for individual cow performance, feed quality and cow well-being. Most cows ruminate between 450 and 500 minutes per day, but individual cows ruminate at different rates.
2. Greater Insight into Transition Cow Management
Tracking rumination information has helped expedite decisions involving fresh-cow care, decreasing the time and labor involved in pulling aside cows for treatment so that these animals receive the attention they need more quickly. This also reduces time away from feed and freestalls.
"Our biggest benefit is not necessarily pulling fewer sick cows a day, but we’re doing it in less time. We don’t have to walk through eight different pens and visually identify cows that need our attention," Moyer says. "I think it’s an added benefit to the cow because she can go from the parlor right back to eating and lying down. She doesn’t have to wait for us to check an entire group of animals."
3. Improved Reproductive Management
Better breeding decisions also have resulted from monitoring rumination. One key decision was the elimination of visual heat detection on the farm. Now, decreased rumination activity, coupled with increased cow activity, is used to determine when cows should be bred.
The meshing of rumination and cow activity monitoring also has resulted in better treatment decisions for cystic cows. Healthier cows also breed back sooner.
"The computer alerts us when a cow has three reported heats in a 30-day period, which means there’s a possibility she’s cystic. So we’ve used this information to treat cystic cows a little more aggressively than what we had in the past," Moyer says.
Read more on SCR Dairy here.