Are the rumination tags an accurate measure?
In the January 2011 edition of the Journal of Dairy Science, researchers from the University of British Columbia and Free University of Berlin in Germany, reported the type of rumination monitoring system that the Sutters are using — the HR Tag system from SCR Dairy — is an accurate tool for monitoring rumination behavior in animals that are nine months of age or older.
‘Worth every penny’
When Bowman Dairy Farm in Hagerstown, Ind., went from bull breeding to estrus synchronization and AI, it precipitated some questions that ultimately led to farm to purchase the rumination tags.
Co-owner Trent Bowman says he wasn’t impressed by the estrus synchronization programs, so he started looking at the heat-detection aspect of the rumination tags. “It was the first thing that drew me to them,” he says. But once he got into it more, he found the tags had other advantages such as health monitoring.
“Health monitoring, to me, is worth every penny of the cost of the system,” he says, “and the heat detection part of it is a freebie.”
With the rumination tags, he can get a better handle on subclinical ketosis. And that, in turn, has helped reduce the displaced abomasum (DA) rate on his dairy. Experts say early detection and treatment of subclinical ketosis can reduce the risk for DAs by almost half. Yet, at Bowman’s dairy, the DA rate is down more than that — from nine DAs a month prior to buying the rumination tags to two a month now.
Bowman’s farm is fairly large, at 1,000 cows, which raises the question — is it best to do the monitoring on an individual-cow basis or a whole-herd basis?
With health monitoring and heat detection, it’s best to do individual-cow monitoring, since each cow has her own rumination pattern or daily average.
But there are some things that can be done on a herd basis, such as watching for changes in rumination following a feeding change. Generally speaking, when rumination goes down, it means something adverse has happened.
Bottom-line: These systems provide producers with a proactive means of monitoring cow health and intervening early. And, that is a good thing in the eyes of the consuming public. Whatever a farmer can do to get a better handle on his cows, take better care of them, and document it to the public is worth its weight in gold.
Everyone wants to know that you have “listened to the cows.”