Now is the time for dairy farmers to develop a pasture ‘road map’ to ensure they have enough feed to take their farms through calving to the balance date in mid-September.
Moocall is known for its calving sensor — a device fitted to a cow’s tail where it measures movement triggered by labour contractions, then sends the farmer a SMS message when calving is imminent, usually within one hour of the event.
With Moocall Heat, the nature of the mating ritual dictates that as a cow starts to come on heat, the bull will follow and attempt to mount the female. The system monitors the activity and records the number of attempts the bull makes to mount the cow.
While the female will typically reject the advance, she will be followed by the bull and eventually stand to be serviced. At this point she is said to have entered ‘standing heat’ so the system will send an SMS message identifying the cow by her RFID ear tag to the user’s smartphone, as well as logging the event on the Moocall Breedmanager app.
This notification allows users running dairy and beef operations to record natural mating, but more importantly for AI breeding situations to accurately time artificial breeding and use the AM/PM rule to determine when the cow is most fertile. This level of accuracy also allows the use of semen with higher genetic merit, with a greater chance of conception.
Says Moocall, “Obviously, getting a cow back in calf during her first cycle will have a major effect on profitability that exceeds the capital cost of the equipment.”
The system also helps identify cows that are repeating, and the number of times they repeat, so identifying cows with underlying problems that are not always obvious.
The Moocall Breedmanger app also allows the user to determine which cows are cycling, in-heat, inseminated, or in-calf, generating more accurate calving dates and so leading to better planning. In larger herds it’s recommended to fit a collar to one bull for 50 cows.
Moocall Heat also helps identify bulls that are more active, or those under-performing, remembering that up to 20% of all bulls can be infertile or not performing to an optimal level.
At the same time the system allows an easy switch between natural or AI mating, by collecting all data from the collars and updating the system automatically.
Dairy News visited the Claxton family farm at Killeigh, Co. Offaly, during a visit to Ireland, seeing the system’s effectivness and ease of use.
The family farms 52ha, running a main herd of 50 high genetic merit suckler cows plus 170 young stock, focusing on the Charolais or Simmental breeds, with a small number of numbers of Hereford based cross-breeds. The farm produces high quality calves reared and sold for the quality beef market.
Son Stephen, studying agricultural science at University College Dublin, discovered the system and introduced his father Desmond, a self-confessed technophobe, to monitoring the cows’ heat cycles.
Stephen says the ability to detect cows coming on heat early and with high accuracy has changed the way the business selects semen for artificial breeding. It now spends much more on premium genetics to improve the quality of the calves being born. In the next season, the farm will send away calves averaging 30kg heavier than this year’s crop.
And he can now pick out cows previously thought to be good breeders which, by their size show all the signs of being in-calf when they are actually empty; this allows early vet intervention or culling.
Early heat notification will easily outweigh the cost of the system, and yield greater outputs from the same area, Stephen says.
And the initial use of the Moocall calving monitor paid for itself by saving just one high-value calf.
Father Des can use the system without calling for help from Stephen.