Use these tips to stop searching and start finding the cows you need.
Finding an individual cow or even a few cows in larger groups that need to be checked, inseminated, treated or fetched isn’t exactly like finding a needle in a haystack. But sometimes it feels that way.
Cow location technology can help reduce frustration, stress and lost time spent seeking specific animals.
Think of this technology like the “Find My Phone” app for your smartphone. It automatically locates the cows you need and accurately pinpoints their real-time position on your barn map with one click – making your team infinitely more efficient. And it positively affects milk production and cow time budgets.
Here are three reasons to stop searching and start finding the cows you need.
1. You can focus on areas with the most need
“One of the biggest benefits of cow location technology is that you don’t need to install it all at once,” notes Ron Dehli, Nedap technical business development manager. “You can start with a tag that accepts location and the hardware can be added later. You can begin with one location or pen and add to your system over time.”
Facility layout and management styles play important roles in determining how cow locating fits into your dairy, but the highest priority areas should always be the cows requiring the most management.
“The technology fits most modern dairy facilities as long as you include infrastructure to mount a beacon, such as a barn or a fully supported sunshade,” adds Dehli.
Transition pens, breeding pens and similar areas where cows require more attention are good places to initially install location system components. Pens for mid- to late-lactation cows can be added later if not included in the introductory installation.
2. Your team can effectively focus on needed tasks
The ability to find specific animals quickly and accurately means your team can be more efficient with time. Instead of searching pens for an animal, they can spend their efforts on more mindful tasks like breeding and animal care. This holds true in conventional and robotic dairy facilities.
“Cow locating technology frees up labor to do different jobs on the farm, jobs that sometimes are a higher priority than hunting down the few animals you’re trying to find,” says Tara Bohnert, Nedap business development manager. “We’ve seen dairies be able to pivot and reallocate where their labor spends time.”
Depending on how the technology is used, cow locating has been able to free up the equivalent of a full-time person to do other tasks on the farm.
Of course, before investing in any technology seek employee buy-in and develop a plan for implementation so employees can feel it’s a part of their success and not a threat to their role or position on the farm.
3. You can reduce interruptions to cow routines
Your team isn’t the only part of your farm affected by more targeted herd interactions. Cows benefit too.
“Less disruption to daily activities is an important outcome of more efficient cow locating,” says Dehli. “The fewer interactions you have with cows throughout their day, the better. Let her do what she likes to do – eat, drink and lie down. If we can easily and remotely find a cow, we don’t have to disrupt an entire pen looking for one out of 200 herd mates. It’s critical to minimize human-cow interactions and let cows be cows.”
While it’s difficult to assign a specific price tag to reduced herd interactions, anecdotally, dairies report increased milk production of 1-2 pounds per cow per day thanks to less time away from feed and water for the whole group, not just those that require attention.
“It’s not just about those cows we need to find; it’s about all those other cows whose day we’ve influenced,” Bohnert says. “Pounds of milk are easy to pencil out when evaluating the return on investment for a system. The cost of a pound per cow on the size of herds we’re talking about adds up quickly.”
Additionally, for larger dairies, especially those that have pens with 500 or 600 cows, cow locating can also help with identifying animals in the wrong pen.
“When it’s time to seek animals, we’re not circling through a pen that a specific cow may not even be in. Location becomes a great tool for dairies to manage where their animals are,” notes Bohnert.
“The success of cow locating comes down to the data points you’re monitoring, your farm’s progressiveness, your labor force and how you want people to interact with your herd,” concludes Dehli.