Author: Ben Thompson (IfA) - Date: February 20th, 2019
Longnor Farm is an organic dairy farm located in Shropshire, milking 250 cows, spring block calving and rearing its own replacements. The farm is owned and managed in partnership between Tim Downes, his wife Louise and Tim’s parents.
Picture of Longnor Farm
The milk supplies Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo) and is exported and processed in the USA; and under the US regulations, the farm cannot use antibiotics. The farm runs a New Zealand style grazing system with an average yield of 5850 litres. The farm consists of 140ha with the herd being indoor housed on straw during the winter.
FarmWizard is a cloud-based software that allows management data to be easily recorded, stored and accessed. Farm Wizard was installed at Longnor farm in 2012. It is being used in link with EID tags and Trutest readers. This is allowing Tim and staff to have accessible data on individual animals in the herd.
This system is largely beneficial with rearing replacements. Heifer calves are weighed at birth and a further two times over the weaning period. Weighing is an integral part of breeding decisions on the farm and the FarmWizard system allows easy access to performance data. This allows more accurate decisions to be made on first service date.
The system is also linked to BCMS, allowing online records of animal movements and medicine use to be easily accessed.
Cameras were first installed at Longnor farm in the 1990’s to monitor the sheep flock during the lambing period. The farm now has 9 updated cameras situated around the farm, being used to monitor the herd on a day to day basis. The cameras have had a huge benefit, especially during the busy calving period. With early detection of calving issues, Tim was quick to mention that “the cameras have paid for themselves on many occasions”.
One of the nine cameras situated around the farm.
Afimilk Silent Herdsman
Silent Herdsman was management software was installed in 2012. The work package consists of collar-based sensors which measure activity, rumination and eating patterns 24/7. This data can then be interpreted on the farm computer to have accurate detection of heat (oestrus) and any potential health issues.
The main benefit for the Longnor farm herd was having tightened up calving block between May and June. This was primarily due to 24/7 monitoring from the Silent Herdsman, enabling heifers which may have silent heats at irregular times, to be picked up.
Some of the milking herd on straw bedding wearing Silent Herdsman neck collar.
Another benefit from using this system is that it worked well in combination the general management software, Interherd. The Silent Herdsman is linked to the automatic shedding gate outside the parlour. This means that any animals that need to be served or looked at can then be automatically sorted. This has saved a lot of time and helped contribute to early treatment of health issues.
Why use technology?
As experienced at Longnor Farm, technology hasn’t been used to replace any work on the farm but to improve efficiency through early detection and accessible data allowing better management decisions to be made. This has ultimately improved the performance of the herd and limited heath, fertility and production issues - allowing the farm to continue to operate antibiotic free.