Budgeree Holsteins in Hannam Vale, New South Wales, is a third-generation farm owned and operated by Col Cowan. Since 1985, the farm has grown from 50 cows producing 0.25 million litres, to 210 cows producing 1.8 million litres per annum.
As a farm that relies mainly on natural increase, Budgeree Holsteins needs to be particularly adept at picking up heats. According to Col, “Our cows weren’t being picked up on season, so I wanted to improve heat detection.” He also wanted to catch illnesses related to rumination quicker, to reduce the impact on cows’ health and productivity. All of this Col was hoping to do whilst saving time and reducing the labour load on his workers
Col installed the SCR Heatime® HR System on his farm in April 2014. He had been thinking of adding the system for a while, and was especially convinced after one of his neighbours vouched for it. The rumination monitoring was a big factor in his decision. Col notes that 20% of cows show signs of standing heat for only four hours, so he saw the SCR Heatime System as a major tool for picking up those heats. Additionally, “A cow chewing her cud is a major indicator of a healthy cow – and if she’s not chewing her cud, it’s a major indicator that something’s wrong. Early detection is fairly crucial for rectifying a sick cow.” Now 250 of his cows wear SCR Heatime tags. Two system readers are located at the entry of the herringbone dairy so that the cows are read as they come in. Another reader is located over the water trough in the calving barn, next to the dairy.
Col starts milking at 5:30 am each day. The cows are read before they’re milked, and any cow needing attention based on the Heatime reports gets sorted in the yard. This helps Col better time AI. According to Col, “If the cow has been on 8-10 hours I will AI her right away, particularly if I know I’ll be alone at the next milking, since I’m the only one on the farm certifed for AI.” Rumination monitoring helps Col get an early indication of developing health issues. If a cow’s rumination numbers drop to 200 minutes or less, he checks the cow for acidosis, respiratory trouble, and ketosis. “Our nutritionist believes 25-30% of all fresh cows suﬀer from ketosis, so that’s pretty signifcant and you really want to pick up on it early. Ketosis can bring her production down, but the drop in production might not be noticeable, say a change from 50 litres down to 40. But the system will pick it up, so then you can look at her and treat her if necessary.” Col also uses the system to monitor rumination of his springers (freshening dry cows), with another reader over a water trough in his calving area. This gives him a good idea of each cow’s rumination before calving, so he can see if she recovers well post-calving. This has already helped identify several cows with early lactation metabolic disorders, which he credits with having saved them