Censortec are bringing advanced new software to the Irish market, in the form of Nedap Now. This software is available with Censortec CowControl, powered by Nedap, and allows for seamless integration with other data providers such as ICBF, drafting gate and milking parlour software packages. Censortec CowControl is the most advanced activity monitoring system available to Irish farmers.  Nedap Now has been trialled and developed in conjunction with Irish farmers, one of whom is Joe Leonard.

Joe farms in Co. Meath, milking 600 cows in a block calving system. Joe was drawn to installing Censortec CowControl powered by Nedap because of Nedap’s long-established history in the market.

‘Fertility is our main KPI. We must be hot on watching heats and getting cows in calf to keep to a compact calving season. We aim for an 85-90% 6-week calving rate. Nedap Now helps us keep on top of that, and this year we had an 88% 6-week calving rate,’ says Joe. ‘When I was trying to decide which system to install, I liked the fact that Nedap had been around for over 40 years and spent a lot of time developing their heat detection system. I felt that that made the tags more reliable, and the technology was well researched. So far, CowControl hasn’t let me down and we’re entering our third year.’

It is Nedap’s philosophy to constantly evolve and improve their products for their customers. In 2022, Joe began working with Censortec and Nedap to trial Nedap Now, the new software that powers Censortec CowControl.

‘With Nedap Now, CowControl is connected directly to ICBF. All the information we need is in one place now, and information like cow’s inseminations and her heat history is all there in the app. It’s made it so simple.’

Heat Detection

As well as the integration with external software, Nedap Now also displays information about the herd in a user-friendly way. Farmers are presented with a Worklist, which highlights the most urgent tasks, and the Herd Insights, which gives an overview of the herd at any point in time.

‘The Herd Insights are a useful indicator of performance, we can see how the herd’s activity and rumination at a quick glance, and you can spot anything unusual at a group level,’ reports Joe.

The herd has grown over the years to 600 cows, which brings its own challenges.

‘We’re lucky that we have five full time staff, including myself and my brother, Matthew, and our farm manager John. I want to do what I can to keep our staff happy, because we can’t function without them. Our rota means that you’re only doing four milkings in every seven days, and those milking aren’t always in one block. The collars provide the consistency when our labour is transient. If a cow looks a bit off, or is slow to milk out, but there’s no note on the board in the parlour, everyone can check the app and see if there’s been a recent behaviour change. That gives me great peace of mind,’ explains Joe.

CowControl has allowed the farm to utilise more sexed semen, while maintaining excellent conception rates. Joe attributes that to Nedap Now’s Optimum Insemination Time feature.

‘When we’re deciding what cow can get sexed semen, we rely on the Optimum Insemination Time feature, and only give sexed straws to cows that are 14-22 hours after starting their heat. We only AI in the morning, so that dictates what can get sexed, if she’s too far gone, she gets a conventional straw. We aim to use sexed high EBI Friesian sires on the top 40% of the herd, and the rest get beef. We’re much more confident in using AI for the full 12 weeks of the breeding season now,’ continues Joe. ‘No one is exhausted for the last four or five weeks, and we’re not doubting ourselves because the data is there.’

Nedap Now provides herd reports (which can be customized), and Joe finds these really beneficial during the pre-breeding season. Nedap Now easily identifies cows which haven’t cycled, or are cycling irregularly, allowing those cows to be prioritized for attention.

‘If anything is calved over six weeks, and CowControl tells us she’s not cycling, we get the vet in and we can start solving any problems before breeding starts. We’ve more time to deal with and correct any problems now. Before CowControl, we were tail painting cows for ten days before starting breeding, which wasn’t a great use of labour; one man was painting and watching the cows during milking. This way, we’re more accurate and more efficient,’ says Joe.

Heat Detection

From a herd health perspective, Joe finds that they use CowControl’s Health Monitoring every day. CowControl allows Joe to identify issues up to 48 hours before symptoms might physically present.

‘We definitely find LDAs earlier as a result of the collars, and the sooner the issue is picked up the sooner it can be solved. It shortens the intervention time. Even just this morning, a cow in the dry cow pen alerted. We wouldn’t have spotted her only for CowControl. It turns out she was starting a case of dry cow mastitis. It gives great piece of mind,’ says Joe.

Censortec work closely with Alfco Farm Services to provide a seamless heat detection and auto drafting solution. Joe has been a long-term customer of Alfco Farm Services, upgrading his transponder based drafting gate to the electronic gate in 2018. Nedap Now integrates data from Alfco and CowControl, meaning cows are drafted by just pressing a button.

‘Both systems go hand in hand and save a huge amount of labour. We know that whatever cows we need to serve at the end of milking will be in the holding pen. We run the herd in two groups, and occasionally need to switch cows between groups based on grass allocation. We can do that at the press of a button from the parlour or from the app. It’s a really simple, reliable system,’ explains Joe.

Censortec, who operate out of Killorglin, Co. Kerry, are the leading suppliers of activity monitors to Irish dairy farmers. They work closely with their supplier, Nedap Livestock, who are based in Groenlo, The Netherlands.

Nedap is the global leader in heat detection and health monitoring, having been monitoring dairy animals for over 40 years.  Using the latest technology, cows are monitored 24/7. Data from the SmartTag neck collars can be access via a phone, laptop, or tablet, always giving farmers full visibility of their herd.

Under the new TAMS III scheme, Censortec CowControl powered by Nedap is eligible for up to 60% funding, depending on which scheme the applicant applies through. To get a quote, click here.