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Bowman Dairy Farm, Hagerstown, IN

Bowman Dairy

Background

Bowman Dairy Farm, founded in 1958 by the parents of current owners Trent and Bennie Bowman, is
today on a second lease of life. After milking stopped in 1984, the dairy operation was revived in 1996
when Trent rejoined his brother Bennie on the farm after many years away. Mindful of the challenges of
supporting two families from a single farm, the brothers have invested in facilities and technologies to
support and drive growth.

 

Challenges

Initially, breeding was done using the Bowmans’ 40-50 bulls, but they later instituted a fully synched AI
operation. “With six groups of cows on two sites three miles apart, it was just too hard to watch enough
to breed off standing heat,” recalls Trent Bowman. “But I was not pleased with the drug costs and
results of the synch program.” In addition, the dairy was experiencing about nine DAs and culling or
losing 4-5 cows a month, incurring considerable costs.

“We used to watch heifers two hours a day to see who’s in heat, but now I spend maybe 10 minutes. You look at the charts, you sort and you breed,”
Trent Bowman, Bowman Dairy Farm

System

Bowman began looking for a heat detection system to reduce synchronization costs, but soon realized
that a more comprehensive monitoring system could solve multiple challenges. “When my Semex
rep talked to me about Allflex’s Heatime® system with rumination monitoring, it was a no-brainer for us.
The activity monitoring was like a free benefit; the selling point was the rumination.” After Bowman
initially calculated that the cost of the system would be repaid within four years through savings in
synch drugs and semen, and fewer DAs, the deal was sealed.
The tags are worn by the full herd, enabling monitoring at every stage of the cycle. This also eliminates
the need to switch tags and wait for the newly tagged cows to establish their rumination benchmarks.
Bowman says: “The system is like having a set of eyes on the cows 24 hours a day.”
Each morning and evening, the herd manager uses the heat report to make breeding decisions. Bowman
and his team review the health reports every morning to identify cows that might need extra attention.
Group rumination reports are looked at weekly and monthly, enabling Bowman to see the effects of
feed changes and to evaluate the dairy’s heat abatement measures.

 

Benefits

Just six months after installing the AFX system, Bowman is well on the way to recovering the costs. “I
budgeted a four-year repayment, but at the rate we are going now, I think it will be 12-18 months,” he
says.

“On rumination alone, the system is saving us about $7,000-$8,000 a month.”
Due to the highly accurate, automated heat detection, the dairy now successfully breeds 82% off
standing heat, a complete turnaround from when it relied almost completely on a synch program.
The savings are amplified when time spent on heat observation and fresh cow management is taken into
account. “We used to watch heifers two hours a day to see who’s in heat, but now I spend maybe 10
minutes. You look at the charts, you sort and you breed,” says Bowman.
As Bowman predicted, prevention of DAs and more informed decision- making about culling is a big
payoff of the SCR system. “We are now catching DAs 24-36 hours earlier and we can see how
they’re responding in eight hours via the rumination. We were running an average of nine DAs a month,
half of which left the farm as they never responded and were culled or died. Now we’re down to two
Das a month, and they’re not leaving the herd because we can treat them for mastitis earlier. In the past
six months, we’ve lost only one DA cow, which we sold.”