Software & technology benefiting a farm in Wales

Author: Ben Thompson (IfA) - Date: December 3, 2018

Capel farm is a dairy farm situated in Carmarthenshire, South West Wales. Milking 170 cows, calving all year round and rearing their own replacements. All animals are housed indoors except replacement heifers. 

Steve Morse, the farm manager, pictured with a cow with a CowManager ear tag. 

The average yield of the Capel Farm herd is 11,500 litres at a quality of 4.05% butterfat and 3.23% protein.

CowManager

CowManager is a herd management software, gathering real-time data from ear tag sensor technology. As part of the CowManager system there is four modules which are fertility, nutrition, health and location. These modules provide accurate data from measures of ear temperature, activity, rumination and eating and resting time.

The CowManager system was installed permanently on Capel Farm in 2014 having been on trial for 3 months; using both the fertility and health modules of the software. In terms of fertility, previous methods of heat detection were visual observation through monitoring cow behavior. With the use of the Cow Manager activity monitors and good stockmanship, the herds calving interval has dropped from 440 to 406 days in response also to changes in service dates.

CowManager software displaying health alerts.

Farm manager Steve Morse has explained however that the health module has been the biggest saving, “as you cannot put a price on the life of an animal”. Between the time of installation and now, the farm has kept its antibiotic use the same despite an increase in number of cows on the farm. This has been a result of early detection of health problems and having the accurate data to be more decisive on course of treatment.

Practical scenarios

Steve has explained that there have been times where some of the freshly calved cows were showing health alerts of "suspicious". He explained that "once the cows were checked out, it turned out they were high in ketosis, so we drenched them and monitored them closely for a few days, making sure they were going to eat. After these few days they were fine, if we didn’t catch it as early there would have been a lot of displaced abomasums".

This has contributed to an improvement in the health of the herd and a dramatic decrease in mastitis count, with those found only being mild cases. Steve has mentioned that “the system is constantly updating itself to improve ease of use and accuracy, with now only 1 false positive reading appearing a week and the database can be accessed by tablet or phone at any location. The real time data collection from the Cow Manager system has enabled the health and activity of the herd to be more closely monitored on a constant and consistent basis."

Lely Discovery 5

The Lely Discovery S is a robotic mobile cleaner. It operates either by remote control or automatically, using a scraper underneath to scrape away slurry and dirt. The robot can receive water by a collection point and then spray in front of the scraper to enable a cleaner channel. This specific robot is ideally suited to slatted floors, however Lely does also provide the Discover 120 which collects slurry.

Lely Discovery pictured finished cleaning the cubicle housing.

The Lely Discovery was installed on Capel Farm in 2016, immediately saving time in keeping the cubicle channels clean. 

Health benefits

The equipment has benefitted the farm from not only improving cleanliness of housing but also contributed to increased production as a result of improved udder health from reduced mastitis cases. In terms of production, the Lely cleaner has contributed to the SCC (somatic cell count) of the herd between the time of installation and now decreasing from 200,000 to 106,000 cells/mL.

Cows of the Capel Farm herd displaying CowManager tags, inside clean cubicle housing.

Integrating technology

At Capel Farm, Steve has chosen precisely what technology would suit the system he manages. In order to successfully integrate technology and reap the benefits on farm, time must be taken to highlight areas of improvement. Specifically, areas where costs can be saved both indirectly in financial terms and also directly through the health and production of the herd. Alongside this, the environment must be taken into account, including infrastructure, location, climate and specific farming system.