Dairy farmers can improve their herd’s fertility, reduce calving intervals and save time and labour costs by using a standalone heat detection system such as the new Crysta-Heat system from Fullwood.
The Crysta-Heat system works with any make or type of parlour and can be used to provide accurate and reliable heat detection in dairy herds.
Increased milk yields, larger herd sizes and a shortage of farm labour have resulted in a slowly declining level of herd fertility throughout the UK. At the same time, the average calving interval has increased by approximately one day every year over the past decade. As a result, the average dairy herd is losing an estimated £5 per cow per day in reduced productivity and increased costs.
However, according to Les Strickland, field sales manager for Fullwood UK, there is a very easy and simple way of improving cow fertility. “UK dairy farmers want long lasting and productive cows. Reaching this goal is heavily dependent on good fertility which results in regular calvings. Unfortunately, heat detection rates on many farms are often typically lower than 60%. This will ultimately mean that milk yields and overall productivity will be limited until heat detection rates improve.
“Crysta-Heat can be successfully used to monitor individual cow activity and behaviour and this information can be used to determine when a cow is in oestrus, making successful insemination more probable. This means that the first service to conception rate can be improved by as much as 10% with the added benefit of less time being spent observing cows to detect which are in heat,” Mr Strickland explains. “Blind heats can also be detected using the system, resulting in lower semen use and lower veterinary bills.”
The new Crysta-Heat system can be used as a standalone system, working alongside all makes and types of parlour. Each cow wears a pedometer around the fetlock on one foreleg. The pedometer then records the number of steps taken by an individual animal over a set period and relays this information via a built-in transponder to a computer every time the cow enters the parlour. Increased activity indicates which cows are in heat, but the system is also able to indicate potential health disorders such as lameness and sickness by logging reduced activity.
The system can also be used in conjunction with Fullwood’s herd management software, Crystal, to assess individual cow yields and milk conductivity. This can help to pinpoint which animals need further veterinary attention and can also provide early mastitis detection.
Mr Strickland states that, “Accurate and reliable heat detection can help to combat the problem of extended calving intervals. The Crysta-Heat system can therefore provide tangible improvements in breeding performance and production efficiency. The system is very easy to operate and can even be used in parlours that do not have a computer. What’s more, the pedometers are really simple to fit and offer fantastic value for money, so much so that they should form a main part of any modern milking system.”
Mick Merritt runs a herd of 180 Holstein-Friesians on his farm at Holsworthy in Devon and installed a standalone Fullwood pedometer system 18 months ago to upgrade his existing parlour. The system allows Mick, who runs the farm with his wife and just one other member of staff, to concentrate his efforts on other areas of cow health without having to spend huge amounts of time checking to see which cows are bulling. “The pedometers are a really good aide to my overall herd management. They are particularly useful in terms of identifying those cows that are quiet bullers”, explains Mick. “They are invaluable in terms of saving time and have helped enormously to improve the herd’s fertility figures. I originally bought 50 pedometers and swapped them over as soon as a cow was confirmed as being in-calf. But I am so pleased with them that I have just ordered another 20 units.”
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