Rumination Monitors Help Find Sick Cows
Kies Orr, Thompson, Conn., started using activity/rumination monitors on her 210 cows last spring, shortly after her father, Peter, passed away in March. The father/daughter duo had been researching activity/rumination monitoring for some time, and were still figuring out how many collars and ear tags they needed when Peter unexpectedly died.
“I so wish he had been able to see this system in operation; he’d be blown away by it,” says Kies. The main reason for purchasing the system was rumination monitoring to find sick cows.
“We have an old facility, and it’s not always easy to find cows that aren’t doing well,” she says. The longer-term plan, hopefully by 2020, is to put in robotic milkers. Until then, she needs a stand-alone system to monitor cow health. “We’re finding sick cows a lot faster, and if something is wrong, we catch it sooner,” she says.
SenseTime collars are placed on cows three weeks before calving when they’re brought in from the dry-cow pasture. The collars stay on cows until dry off. Heifers receive ear tags. Totaled, Fort Hill Farms is electronically monitoring nearly 500 head.
Kies is still using synchronization treatments to cycle cows. But she says the activity monitors better predict the best time to inseminate cows, and they have substantially reduced the number of cows that get a second straw of semen because they were still showing heat the next day. “We’ve had one of our best summers for conception rates this year, even though we’ve had one of our hottest summers,” she says.
As she learns the system, she hopes to move away from synchronization treatments for first service. The system is already working well breeding heifers.
Along with the dairy, Fort Hill Farms has an on-farm creamery which sells branded milk, cheese and ice cream, a six-acre corn maize designed to a new theme each year, more than 70 gardens of “eclectic perennials” and a huge pumpkin patch. All of that draws thousands of visitors and tourists to the farm each year.
Kies says she has never had a fit bit or a personal nutritionist. “But I can now tell our visitors that almost every one of our cows has a fit bit and has their diet balanced by a nutritionist,” she says. “That’s keeping the cows happy and healthy, and consumers like that.”
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