Hamish Noakes’ Milkabit Farm uses a GEA rotary platform said to be the first of its kind in New Zealand.
At the heart of the CowScout is the G Sensor that monitors and interprets a cow’s movement via a collar around its neck.
GEA New Zealand’s herd management solutions manager Jan Winke says the system better measures and interprets than the conventional ‘pedometer’ type heat detectors usually strapped to a cow’s leg.
“Our experience is that this sort of sensor is better for the NZ dairy situation where cows will typically be walking further than in Europe, meaning straight foot movement will not always be an accurate indicator of heat activity here.”
The sensors also detect eating, so indicating an animal’s health.
By recording and comparing individual cows’ eating they can detect any departure from the norm, and be set to alert operators to draft out sick cows.
Data is transmitted to a central receiver-processing unit, so the activity of individual cows is logged for access via PC or tablet through an internet link.
The CowScout can provide 24 hour direct alerts on cows that are presenting heat activity, and it suits NZ’s batch approach to mating, usually after the morning milking. Typically, the cows on heat during the last 24 hours would be displayed through the PC or tablet before milking starts, and their numbers can be entered into the system for identification and drafting for AB.
GEA says pasture-feeding farms where CowScout has been installed are finding it works: they are getting information about cows in poor health and help in identifying cows with hard-to-diagnose post-calving condition.
Winke comments “a big challenge for NZ farmers is getting heat identification right for the critical first three weeks of mating. The CowScout has proven 90-95% accuracy, and provides options for the timing of AB.”
For farmers doing their own AB, a real-time update on heat activity will help with timeliness; and cows not needing to come into the milking shed opens opportunities for breeders of pedigree or beef cattle to monitor their herds closely.