Managing heat detection with an expanding herd
William O’Brien, Co. Waterford Ireland
Herdsize - 181 Number of collars -181
Yield, 7,000 Litres
Requirements: the main reason for looking at a Heat Detection system was my increase in numbers. My heat detection rates were decent enough, but then I took the decision to increase my herd size to over 180 cows. I had been tail painting and all of a sudden I felt I was in a position where I was going from a long calving season straight into monitoring for heat detection and the amount of labour it was consuming was just becoming uneconomical and unrealistic.
Why a Smart Collar Based system? I had spoken to CollinsAgri and went through the issues I was having, Liam suggested that I take a look at the HerdInsights system. I have to admit it was a bit daunting it was a big investment for a collar around a cow’s neck, a lot of this technology is relatively new and it can be hard initially to see the return, but that perception changed quite quickly.
Starting Out: Initially I purchased 80 collars but having quickly seen the benefits and results I then purchased an additional 100. It was an easy decision for example 158 of my herd were AI’d within the first three weeks and out of that 117 held their first AI, giving me a 74% conception rate.
Biggest benefits: I have more cows calving and will have ¾’s of my herd back out on grass by the 1st of March this year. Last year I had a lot of stragglers, this year my full herd is on the system and my bull will be with the cows for a month less. It is as simple as this - for a cow to make money I need her in calf and back out on grass as soon as possible and that’s what the HerdInsights system gives me.
Biggest savings: Early on when I started this project I would definitely have said ‘labour’ now I would easily say the biggest benefits are financial. My culling figures are way down, prior to this year my culling figures were in the early 20’s, this year out of 180 cows I have 10 not in calf. In addition I’m getting my cows back out to grass a lot quicker I had 30 cows calf in May of last year, this year I will dry off as usual on December 1st and 80% will have calved within a 6 week period. In addition I rare calves and as anyone will tell you there is a huge difference between calves born in early February to late May.
Health Benefits: When I purchased the system my priority was labour savings and improving my breeding program, I hadn’t really looked at the health benefits, then I received 2 health alerts and within a few days of receiving them I noticed my milk yield had dropped back, so I checked out the two cows I had received the alerts for to find that they had mastitis so I was able to treat and get them back on track much quicker, and I quickly realised there was a lot to be gained from the health monitoring.
Year round benefits: Yes, particularly in relation to health I am now starting to see some real benefits here. For example I had one cow that I received a health alert on way before I would have spotted anything, I contacted the vet, we treated her and she was back milking, I can safely say without that alert at best she would have been dried out over the summer, if not even culled.
Ease of use: To be honest the system is fool proof its really straight forward, while it is extremely detailed it is really straight forward and easy to use.
Results: Prior to the system I had 16/17% of my herd not in calf that figure is now down to 5.5% my figures are moving from average rates to top herd figures.
Support: has been top class from the support I received when installing the product to their continued support to date I couldn’t ask for better any queries or advice I have needed has always been on hand.
In Summary: to become economically efficient I needed to expand my herd, but the effect that had on labour requirements was huge, I needed a solution, and I will admit it was daunting to invest in such a relatively new technology, but I have more than achieved my goal, I’ve reduced labour, gained financially.. the figures speak for themselves.