Laura and David Hannon didn’t have a fertility issue. But they did have an issue with the length of time they spent on heat detection.
‘We’re milking 330 cows, and our heifers are on an out-farm. Between watching the cows at home and going to the out-farm to watch the heifers, we were easily spending two hours a day on heat detection alone,’ explains Laura, who farms with her father David in Co. Meath.
To free up more time, they began to research heat detection systems. They looked at all their options and decided to install Censortec CowControl powered by Nedap.
‘We wanted to install a heat detection system to give us more time, and because we wanted to start using more sexed semen. We knew that a heat detection system would be a massive help with getting the timing right for that. We chose CowControl for a few reasons. It has a great battery life of up to 10 years, and it links with our Alfco drafting gate so we can auto draft the cows. As well, it gives us the Optimal Insemination Time, which tells when the best time to serve each cow is. That gives us a big advantage when we’re using sexed semen,’ continues Laura.
Before the Hannons installed CowControl, their main method of heat detection was tail paint and observation. Now, they rely on CowControl for all heat detection, and have saved time, increased their accuracy, and gained more freedom to be away from the farm.
‘It’s made a big difference to us. Myself and my father don’t argue over who has to come back and do the late night heat detection now, CowControl does it all for us! We can get away in the evenings, and it’s given us a bit of life back. In 2021, before we installed CowControl, our 6 Week Pregnancy Rate was 70% with the cows and 88% in the heifers. This past year it was 76% with the cows and 93% with the heifers. And that’s with using a lot more sexed semen this past year,’ says Laura.
They used 180 straws of sexed semen this year and had excellent results. The Hannons feel that CowControl gives them more time to make better breeding decisions, on whether a cow should get sexed or conventional semen, or beef.
‘We’re far more efficient now,’ relates Laura. ‘Our time is better spent making these sort of decisions and working with the data from CowControl, rather than standing and watching a group of cows.’
The integration with Alfco is invaluable too,’ adds David. ‘We’ve a long working relationship with Alfco, and we actually had one of their very first drafting gates installed in 1997.’
Censortec CowControl integrates with Alfco’s Drafting Gate app. Any cow that is due to be served is automatically drafted as she exits the parlour. Both Censortec CowControl and Alfco’s drafting gate are eligible for funding under TAMS III.
‘It’s so simple,’ says Laura. ‘I press Start Milking, and at the end of milking any cow that needs to be served or has a health alert, or that I wanted to draft for whatever reason, is standing in the pen. You don’t need to worry about watching for cow’s numbers as they come in. It’s essential, it just takes the headache out of it.’
An unexpected benefit of CowControl has been the information provided on the herd’s health. CowControl monitors each cow’s activity, rumination and eating time to give a constant overview of her health status. Any significant change in that creates a health alert.
‘It’s fantastic. Normally you don’t spot a cow until her milk drops or she’s hanging back in the collecting yard at milking time. Since we installed CowControl, we’re picking up issues far earlier. If a cow hasn’t been ruminating for a few hours, we administer fluids and watch her closely to see if she gets back to normal. Nine times out of ten, they get back on track and never present with any serious illness. We’ve reduced antibiotic use, and we’ve improved welfare because cows are not getting sick,’ explains Laura.
It’s improved dry cow management on their farm too. As all cows are in the one shed over the dry period, it was difficult to spot issues in the dry cows until they had become significant.
‘When you’re not seeing the cows through the parlour every day, we were missing a few issues. CowControl picks them up for us now and everything is kept on an even keel,’ continues Laura. ‘I’d be lost without it!’
Laura was awarded the AHV Animal Health Dairy Farmer of the Year in 2023, and attributes some of her success to CowControl.
‘When you’re finding issues 12-24 hours earlier, it’s far easier to keep on top of the herd’s health. We’ve reduced our antibiotic use and reduced the vet’s bills. And we have a healthier herd as a result,’ she says.
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