Activity and rumination monitors are revolutionizing the way dairy producers detect heats and get early indications of health problems.
SCR Dairy, Inc., an Israeli company, has been offering the activity/rumination monitors to North American dairies for several years, and has the technology on about 400 farms in the United States and Canada, says Tom Breunig, SCR U.S. general manager. In the United Kingdom and Denmark, about 25% of cows are now being bred off of these systems, he says.
SCR sponsored a media tour of Fertile Ridge Dairy near Mt. Horeb, Wis. yesterday. It is also exhibiting here at World Dairy Expo, with a booth in the New Holland Trade Center.
|Joel, left, and Gary Sutter (along with Nick, not pictured) have been using SCR rumination and activity monitoring since April to improve heat detection and herd health.
Fertile Ridge, owned by Gary, Joel and Nick Sutter, milks about 600 cows and has been using the technology since April 2012.
Sutter has been breeding off the activity monitors throughout the summer, one of the hotter summers on records here in southwest Wisconsin. "We wanted to go to the next step in heat detection," says Joel Sutter, herdsman. "The monitors give us more flexibility in time management, take out a lot of labor and drug costs, and give us more information." Synchronization drug use has dropped by two thirds, he says.
He estimates the activity monitoring is finding about 25 more cows in heat each month—roughly one per day—than he did using his old Ov-Synch program. "The SCR system just takes the guessing out of it," says Sutter.
The rumination monitor actually records the number of minutes a cow is ruminating each day. It does so by literally listening for sounds of rumination and cud chewing. If a cow ruminates less than her normal—each animal has her own baseline, but average 475 minutes per day—it’s an indication that something is wrong.
"Before, we were treating cows off of clinical signs of disease. A lot of it was reactive—temping cows, ketosis tests, and so on," says Joel. "Now I spend more time in the office looking at the computer. If something is out of whack, I can check her out as individual rather than walking the whole group."
The Sutters place the activity/rumination tags on the cows in the pre-fresh group three weeks prior to calving. They remain on the cows until confirmed pregnant.
The system isn’t cheap, typically $7,500 for a 400- to 500-cow herd, and can be double that for larger herds. The activity/monitor combined tags are $155 each (activity-only tags run about $125).
But the system typically produces its return on investment in 18 months, says Haim Fleminger, SCR’s director of U.S. strategic business development. The returns come in lower labor and hormone costs and quicker detection of health problems.
You can visit SCR Dairy, Inc. in New Holland Trade Center booth #900-926.