Dairy cows typically like to get 10 to 12 hours of lying-down time, so when their rest is interrupted, producers take note.
And an animal that is frequently getting up and moving around is telling the producer something as well. It could be they are in heat (estrus) or discomfort.
There are products that can help dairy farmers monitor the health and well-being of their animals around the clock.
One of them is the Pedometer Plus Tag. It’s the newest version of AfiMilk Inc. monitoring devices to come onto the market. In addition to heat detection, the devices can calculate a cow’s steps and rest and restlessness patterns.
Tony Rawlings, president and owner of North Star Dairy Services Inc., of Preston, Idaho, is a distributor of the Pedometer Plus and said it has been a breakthrough product.
“It provides a lot more information,” Rawlings said.
The monitoring device’s new data accounts for the number of times the animal is getting up and down.
“It could be the cow is having stomach problems or has an eye irritation,” he said.
Too much bedding, not enough bedding or overcrowding also can make an animal restless.
Cows also show increased activity before coming into estrus. And the Pedometer Plus can serve as an early detection system in free-stall housed dairy herds when labor is short.
The device was developed and first used about five years ago in Israel where AfiMilk Inc. is based. It was introduced in the U.S. a couple of years ago. There are a number of distributors across North America.
Other pedometer readers have been produced, but this latest offering provides additional information on a cow’s movements.
The device is strapped on a cow’s ankle. An antenna positioned in the barn or dry lot provides a signal that relays data to a software program – the Afi Herd Management System – for the farmer to monitor.
Today’s dairy operations are more in tune with the cows’ living environment and how it can affect milk productivity and quality. Any tool that can improve that environment or head off potential health issues is going to get producers’ attention.
Rawlings said some large producers are putting the tags on four or five animals in different groups. This provides them with a better idea of what activity is going on with the entire herd and whether there are differences in feed or bedding, in addition to possible health problems.
The Pedometer Plus tag also is being used by livestock producers. Rawlings said the data is proving valuable for cows close to calving.
“If she’s really active, it’s a sign she could be close,” he said.
The tags also are being used in heifer pens.
While the Pedometer Plus monitors the activity of cows, another new AfiMilk product, the Afilab, can process milking information in real time. It was introduced last year at the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin.
It is the only milk analyzer on the market with a unique sensor that analyzes milk components at every milking. It offers dairy producers on-line data that can determine changes in feeding, monitoring herd health and raising milk processing efficiency.
Once it has been installed between the milk meter and milk collection line, the analyzer can measure protein, fat and lactose levels. It also detects somatic cell count (SCC) and the presence of blood in the milk, Rawlings said.
“It’s been a great product for dairy producers,” he said.