As a business owner, you want the best people to work with your cows. In a perfect world, these people would be diligent employees that have great cow skills. Unfortunately, these ideal employees that are diligent and know their way around cows are scarce. Leaving you with the option of either hiring diligent employees that need to be extensively trained or to compete in a tight market of employees that can do both.
Electronic animal monitoring reduces the emphasis on cow-skilled employees.
It is estimated that about 80% of a herdsperson’s time is spent trying to find the cows that need management attention: cows in heat and sick cows.
With an accurate animal monitoring system, the need to have a trained eye for heat detection and/or finding sick cows is virtually eliminated. All that’s required is the ability to read a report and to find the cows that are listed on it (an integrated sort gate can help with collecting these cows more efficiently).
The Cows In Heat report is displayed below. This report lists all those cows that are displaying a change in behavior that would be expected to be present if she is in heat. Additional analysis of her behavior in the last month to date is used to verify the probability of her being in heat. This probability number is displayed in the right-most column, the Heat Index.
The provided example is from an 800-cow herd. We have eight cows that are flagged by the system for a heat. Seven of these cows warrant breeding without further inspection, the eighth cow, number five on the list (cow 3883) has a borderline score and would require further inspection.
The fourth column from the right (Breeding Window) displays the number of hours left to that cow’s expected ovulation. The cell will be color coded to indicate the optimal time to inseminate her. Green is optimal, yellow is either a few hours too early or too late, and red indicates that that cow most likely is past her optimal insemination timing.
As long as the inseminators possess proper breeding technique and breed the cow within the optimal time window, getting cows pregnant is easy. No other cow skills necessary! There are herds that get over 45% conception rate with breeders that “could not find a cow in heat if she fell on them” (per the herd owner).
Below is a Health Report, the right-most column displays the Health Index, a number that indicates the relative health of the animal. A score of 100 means that the cow is perfectly healthy. Only cows with a score below 85 will appear on the report. A Health Index cell highlighted in red means that cow needs to be seen immediately, a cell highlighted in yellow means that the urgency to see her is less pressing yet she should be seen today. A white cell means that the cow is having an off day, some farmers refer to these cows as “not wanting to come to work today” these typically are not inspected.
Practically speaking, this means that employees do not have to “walk the pens” to find cows that look sick. They go out into the pens with a list of cows they need to find (if no sort gate is used) and check. The training of these employees focuses on standard operating procedures for diagnosis and treatment. Again, no cow skills are required, just the ability to read and be trainable.
Labor efficiency does not have to be a concern on your dairy!