Managing your Dairy Herd
Published on Thu, 08/10/2023 - 11:30am
Managing your Dairy Herd.
Article and photos provided by BouMatic.
Cows are routine animals. Feeding, drinking, ruminating, moving... Their activities hardly vary. A well-regulated life is ideal for cows! The dairymen can set up the right conditions for a daily routine to help guarantee performance. Six identified needs are generally considered, because they are strongly linked to each other:
NEED 1: Adequate feed, available 21 hours a day.
A cow has 9 to 14 meals a day and spends between 3 and 5 hours at the feed trough. The ration must be balanced, fibrous, tasty, and reliable. If it is made by different people, make sure that the mixture is always made in the right order and proportions.
NEED 2: Good quality water in sufficient quantity.
The cows spend half an hour a day drinking. The water must be clean. Be especially attentive in hot weather, test the flow rate and electrical losses. Cows should also be able to drink at will.
NEED 3: Light everywhere in the barn.
Milking cows require light levels of 162–215 lux (15–20 ft -candles), 16–18 hours/day, followed by a dark period of 6–8 hours/day. Keep light levels as uniform as possible throughout the barn when measured at cow level.
NEED 4: Regularly renewed air, without humidity or drafts.
And above all, not too hot in summer! Heat stress has marked physiological and behavioral effects: immunodepression, reduced appetite, loss of milk, etc. “Hot spells” disturb milk production.
NEED 5: A comfortable and available lying position.
A cow spends 12 to 14 hours lying down. The benefit of resting include greater milk synthesis due to increased blood flow through the udder. A standing cow circulates 60 gallons of blood per hour through her udder compared with 90 gallons per hour in a resting cow.
NEED 6: Space for movement.
Moving around without fear to eat, drink, sleep and express heat is essential. Cows spend 2 to 3 hours a day moving around. Make sure they don’t slip, avoid fences, steps, unnecessary turns and dead ends.
Any Change in Behavior Should Alert You
When welfare is impaired, behavior is the first thing to be changed. This is true in case of stress or health problems. Is a cow lying down for an abnormally long time? This may be due to an infectious lameness. Another is feeding less: mastitis, ketosis? You know how to recognize these symptoms. But spotting these “cow signs” is time-consuming.
To help you keep an eye on your herd, you can rely on RealTime Activity by BouMatic. Originally a heat detection tool, this system monitors herd activity in real time and tracks behavioral deviations.
Each animal is fitted with a movement detector neck tag. The data is transmitted in real time to a software program and an algorithm interprets the activity of each cow and categorizes it: rumination, heat, standing, movement, ingestion.
RealTime Activity also allows you to observe each individual cow as well as providing an overview of the herd. The daily recording helps to identify where the cow stands in comparison to the previous days. Any sudden change should raise an alarm. This is very useful when monitoring animals near calving: RealTime Activity can give an alert when a cow goes into heat or when an anomaly is detected in her feeding and rumination routine.
Any particular event will result in a modification of the indicators. An incident that might have slipped under your radar is clearly visible on the screen and in your alerts.
Use BouMatic RealTime to get a health snapshot of your cows on time, anytime.