What Rick Adams knows about his cows is truly amazing.
On a recent walk-through, he couldn’t get the words out fast enough describing the cows, their parentage, production levels and mannerisms. A cow with the ear tag number 1467 was mentioned as the oldest cow. “She manages her time,” Adams said. “She lays down when she should. She never messes (around).”
For a self-described “old-school, visual guy” like Adams, new technology that tells what the cows are doing virtually on a computer screen — rather than through personal observation — takes some adjustment. But Adams has embraced this technology, calling it a “game-changer.”
Tags that monitor the cows’ physical activity, including rumination, have helped Adams’ Sugar Creek Dairy near Elkhorn, Wis., make some major improvements in terms of reproductive management and efficiency.
When certain body motions go up and rumination goes down, it’s a sign that the cow is in heat. That, in turn, makes breeding more precise — even reducing the need for estrus synchronization and timed AI.
Certainly, many things have changed at Sugar Creek Dairy since working with Semex to put in the Heatime HR-Tag system from SCR Dairy. For one thing, a higher percentage of cows are getting pregnant by 150 days in milk — 72 percent compared to 65 percent.
The technology has given Adams and his staff greater confidence that what they see in the barns will be backed up by what they see on the computer screen.
“The technology is always watching the cows,” says Curtis Horsens, herdsman at Sugar Creek Dairy. “It’s watching (them) 24/7.”
Adams points out that young people, like Horsens, are used to working on computers, and the technology is secondnature to them. They have the knowledge, but they don’t have the experience, he adds.
Sugar Creek Dairy — a 615-cow operation — is an example of young people using the technology in combination with older, more experienced cowmen like Adams to achieve remarkable results.
That is why Adams calls it a “game-changer.”
Healthier cows = better reproduction
While activity and rumination monitoring is able to identify most of the cows as they come into heat — granted, there are always anestrus cows that are difficult to detect — one of the main advantages is actually achieved weeks earlier when cows begin their lactation.