Friday, 08 November 2019 11:16

NAIT helps breeder manage bulls

Written by  Staff Reporters
Peter Maxwell manages his bull stud in central Auckland. Peter Maxwell manages his bull stud in central Auckland.

Bull breeder Peter Maxwell manages a bull stud in central Auckland. Here's how he uses NAIT.

For effective bull management he updates his NAIT account regularly and uses secondary visual tags along with NAIT tags.

What is the size of your operation?

We are a small business operator with about 60 cows and 24 yearlings. At present we have 12 clients NZ-wide.

Do you lease your bulls?

Never. All our bulls are sold after being born and raised at Cornwall Park. We purchase service bulls every two to three years from a trusted provider in Hawke’s Bay.

How long have you been breeding bulls?

I’ve been doing it here for over 12 years. The Cornwall Park stud opened in 1991 and started breeding Swiss heritage Simmental bulls from 1996.

Do you specialise only in the Simmental breed?

It’s our choice of bull. We have over time acquired a breed which is more civil, quieter and meatier. They are unique when you consider they share the park with about four million visitors a year, so their docile temperament is key, and we have a policy of not buying females. Now, almost all our bulls are genetically polled.

Who looks after your NAIT obligations?

I’m the PICA [person in charge of animals] at the park. The bulls are generally tagged and weighed on the day of their birth. I’ll pop by the office to activate the tags in the system to register them in NAIT. This ensures our bulls have lifetime traceability. I have a tag reader but rarely use it. When selling bulls I’m responsible for recording and confirming the movements with the buyer’s NAIT number.

Are Simmental bulls easy to NAIT tag?

Yes, if you do it straight after birth, though we use a head bail when they are difficult to tag. We also tag our bulls with a secondary visual tag and that makes it easier for identifying them and their NAIT number when they’re out in the pasture. It would be unusual to lose a NAIT tag and a visual tag at the same time, and if the NAIT tag falls out you can quickly restore the tag number in the system by checking the visual tag.

Managing bulls can be risky in the current Mycoplasma bovis climate?

Because our focus is on selling bulls, we aren’t in the position some bull leasers may find themselves in with having to quarantine bulls coming back to the stud. We have taken steps to mitigate a disease outbreak by an embryo transplant with one of the bulls. This means we can replicate our current herd and ensure the genetics are protected.

Is the industry changing as a result of Mycoplasma bovis?

Definitely. It’s noticeable our buyers are recording and confirming NAIT movements a lot sooner after the sale. Some larger commercial bull operators might find it challenging to keep on top of their obligations with more animals and clients to manage, but with NAIT you simply need to prioritise and keep on top of it and be vigilant.

How often do you update your NAIT account?

If I’m selling bulls, I’ll be there at least once a week. We run a calving book too. It’s easier if you prioritise the recording of movements and over time it’s got easier to do. A good practice is to check the status of your animals and their tags when you are drenching.  As I’ve become more familiar with the NAIT online system, I’m finding I spend less time doing it. It helps being in central Auckland which has good broadband.

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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