Having a decent break between calving and mating was a refreshing change for Te Awamutu dairy farmers Wendy and David Harker.
Milking 430 cows on 252 hectares, they are a closed system with three full-time staff, and all supplements grown and young stock raised on farm.
The Harkers applied Allflex collars to their cows in spring 2017 with the goal to improve overall breeding performance, particularly reducing empty rates and the use of CIDRs.
"We did recognise that we had some reproductive issues on our farm as many of our cows were on system two, but we're wanting them to produce 400-500 kilograms (kgs) a cow," Wendy says.
The Harkers focus on pedigree breeding, so with high-value stock they wanted to retain animals and improve their performance wherever possible.
They admit it took a while for the staff to trust the information coming through from the collars. Cows were showing visible signs of a heat before showing up on the system, however, they quickly learnt that the system was pinpointing the most optimal window for artificial breeding (AB) and it gave them the ability to record pre-mating heats and identify non-cyclers.
"Our staff love the collars now. There's no tail paint, no scratches and no bulls."
They've used the data from the collars to tighten their calving pattern up and create a proper break before mating starts. They've introduced short gestation semen and implemented a 'Y-Wait' programme through their vets.
"The mating season is intense in that first couple of weeks with the 'Y-Wait' programme, but at the end of the day, we have calves in earlier, and we get them weaned earlier - which is wonderful. And it certainly takes the pressure off the heat detection by the staff," Wendy says.
The collars haven't just improved breeding performance, they've become a tool for identifying sick cows and monitoring recovery. The Harkers traditionally followed the standard four-day protocol for transitioning cows from a colostrum herd to the main milking herd. The collars quickly showed that some fresh cows needed longer in the colostrum herd to get their rumination level back up to normal.
"We were milking them last, then we were sending them into a large group of animals that had already been grazing that paddock for quite some time, there wasn't adequate feed, they really were under pressure and it did show up."
Having this information at their fingertips has been invaluable to their operation, and they admit they would struggle if they now had to operate without the collars. Wendy believes one of the big advantages of the Allflex system is the ongoing support. She really enjoyed the onboarding process, as the information was drip-fed slowly over time rather than being overwhelmed with all the bells and whistles.
"They didn't try and sit you down, teach you absolutely everything about the collars and then leave you alone. I can't emphasise enough the backup and support we've had from Allflex it has just been huge, and it has continued. I've really enjoyed that contact and relationship."
For more information about Allflex monitoring systems talk to your local Farm Source store to arrange an introduction with an Allflex monitoring specialist.Article supplied by Allflex Livestock Intelligence