Nigel Hicks, NZ

Taking the guess work out of mating

Background

When Nigel Hicks purchased the Heatime Pro+ monitoring system by Allflex, he was looking to improve his heat detection accuracy. After having the system in place for 12 months, Nigel sees the real value of the system in overall cow health monitoring. “To see the health information of an individual cow and overall herd monitoring – that’s what drives everything else. So if you can get that right, mating is just a by-product of that”, he explains. Nigel is 50:50 sharemilking on his parent’s dairy farm in the Waikite Valley in the Bay of Plenty. He currently milks 540 cows and is focused on reducing debt and the liability on the herd. His strategy is simple; improving cow health should lead to higher pregnancy rates, increased production, more efficient feed utilisation and essentially, more money dropping out the bottom. “Healthy cows drive everything, so we should see most things increase.” The system has also helped with cow wellness and disease. It was originally a pure observation process, if cows started to show signs of illness then there would be intervention. With Heatime Pro+ Nigel is able to identify issues much earlier and monitor whether the treatment is actually working, based on data provided on rumination graphs. “For me cow health is where the real value is. It makes decisions easier and it’s black and white – there is no grey. For example, during mating it was ‘she could be on, could be not’ now it is a straight heat or not, easy as that.”

“For me cow health is where the real value is. It makes decisions easier and it’s black and white – there is no grey. For example, during mating it was ‘she could be on, could be not’ now it is a straight heat or not, easy as that.”
Hicks, New Zealand

Challenges

Mating was the main focus in year one with the collars. Nigel had the best submission percentage he’d ever had with 97%. However, he soon realised how valuable the Heatime Pro+ system was when his empty rate was also very high. “The technology and collars did their job, they provided me with the insight to understand why the empty rate was so bad and combined with my knowledge of the feed rates and seasonal challenges, I could see from the dates that a feed pinch and weather conditions caused a number of losses in mid-pregnancy.” Nigel admits he couldn’t have done such detailed analysis before the system was in place, and it has also enabled him to remove bulls from mating this year. He has made the move to full AI and got true conception rates with PD dates. “We’ve nailed it a bit better, we are getting better data out of the whole PD side of things.” The farm’s previous mating process consisted of two rounds of KAMAR heat detectors and a final follow up of tail paint if required. Now, the system provides a daily heat graph and the whole process is run by data from each individual cow.