Watching any NFL or college football game, you’re sure to see a barrage of instant replays with the commentators dissecting what went right or wrong during the play.
For Perazzo Brothers Dairy of Fallon, Nev., being able to recall the day’s events with video recordings on the farm has been a game-changer.
The Perazzos moved into a new parlor and added pens to the dry lot dairy in October 2014. Updates to the facilities also included the installation of 20 cameras around the farm. Brothers Alan and David, along with David’s son, Daniel, needed more eyes to monitor cows and employees with the dairy growing from 500 cows to 1,000 and possibly 1,600 in the future.
All 20 camera angles on the farm can be seen from a computer screen in the office of the parlor. At the end of the parlor, behind a large observation window in the breakroom, there’s a 42" flat screen TV protected by glass with a feed of the pushup area and four angles of the maternity pen playing on a loop for employees.
“It is just a matter of being a management tool on that end,” David says of the TV.
If a cow needs immediate aid during calving, someone in the parlor can ring for help or head that direction after seeing the action live on TV. Newborn calves can also be picked up in a timelier manner.
The TV helps the milkers directly because they don’t have to constantly walk back to make sure cows are flowing into the parlor. Also, it benefits cow handling because there won’t be as high of likelihood of cows balking to come into the parlor since no one has to physically look at them entering.
The pushup pen features a crowd gate that automatically starts pushing cows up after 45 seconds, eliminating the need for an employee to push up cows.
“Overall, we tell the milkers to stay in the pit and be patient. Cows are trained, and they’ll go in if you let them. If you go out to get them, they’ll wait for you to get them,” Alan says.
“That milker will either change, or they won’t be here,” David adds.
Everyone knows they are being held accountable at all times.
Alan says the video serves as a nice training tool and fortunately, there hasn’t been much need to look at film.
“But anytime we have an issue we can say, ‘Let’s go back and look at it,’” he says.
In one instance, David was trying to get a milker to use one towel per cow. The employee said he was just using one towel per cow. Film doesn’t lie, and after a little rewinding, the milker saw that he was using one towel on two cows, which increases the possibility of passing bacteria from one cow to the next.
Following the replay, the employee acknowledged his error and corrected it.
“We’re thrilled with it. Our milkers are not giving us any grief at all with those cameras,” Alan says.
In another instance, a few cows went into the wrong pen at the dairy. Through the video, the Perazzos were able to determine the cows had entered the correct pen after leaving the parlor. This helped them eliminate any reason for looking at problems directly at the barn and focus on any mishaps back in the pen.
There was even a time the video replay led to a blooper-type moment. A milker asked to have the footaged dialed back to 10:30 p.m. the previous night and see their comical fall to the ground. “He got a kick out of it and wanted to see it,” Alan laughs.
The system cost more than $7,000 with the Perazzos doing the installation themselves. Videos are available to review for about six weeks. After that time or when it is full, the system automatically deletes them.
The videos can also be viewed live remotely via a smartphone. That feature has cut down on unneeded trips to the barn or maternity pen.
It also comes in handy when family members are away from the farm. Once, a truck driver was having a difficult time hooking up the wash. Alan and Daniel were able to instruct the driver as they watched on their iPhone, while attending a meeting in Kansas City.
Adding the cameras has helped the dairy improve employee efficiency and cow care.
“We use it to check on animals more than check on people,” David says. “One of our priorities is to make sure the animals are handled properly and treated well.”
“Employees all know they are being filmed, and I think it has been a good tool overall,” Alan adds.