Wearables - not just a fashion statement

Wearables are fashionable on cows these days, whether it be a collar, ear tag or bolus. They all transmit valuable data to the farmer around both activity and health of their cows. How can this valuable data be utilised well on farm to make informed production decisions?

With the rumen being the engine of your dairy cow, rumination minutes are one of the key indicators to the health of a productive dairy cow. Rumination minutes will vary at certain times of the year due to feed quality, quantity and weather conditions. Utilising this information in conjunction with milk yield data and tools such as body condition scoring with give you an idea of benchmarks for different lactation stages.

Alongside quality and quantity of feed, other factors such as heat, storms, lack of water or changing cows between herds can make noticeable changes to daily herd rumination. Rumination minutes on a pastoral based operation should sit between 400 – 600 minutes daily. Understanding where your herd sits will help interpret what is happening with your feeding management, and how you can smooth out some of the peaks and troughs.

Health alerts on an individual cow occur when her rumination minutes combined with activity, drop below a set threshold. Below is a cow that had been ruminating between 450-500 minutes a day (purple line), then her minutes drop sharply to below 200 minutes (first aid kit icon). This alerted the farmer who called the vet, and the cow was diagnosed with Theileria. You can see the improvement in her rumination by the second day.

A key time to monitor data is at calving with cows being most susceptible to ketosis up to 30 days post calving. The fresh cow report can help alert you to cows that take a dip in their rumination post calving. You can monitor your colostrum herd to ensure they are recovering from calving well, or hold them in once a day mobs for longer depending on their individual recovery thereby setting them up for earlier mating. Below is an example of a first calver – notice the dip in her rumination minutes at calving (the pram icon), equally the improvement once she has calved. Within seven days of calving she has reached over 80% of her pre calving minutes. This is key to a healthy cow prepared for a successful mating.

Understanding what this monitoring data can do for the health of your herd in both reproductive and production performance make this information invaluable. Noticing significant trends or patterns from your wearable data can help identify underlying issues that can be affecting the herd. If you are wanting to gain more from your wearables or have questions around interpreting the data that you are seeing please contact Melinda.Little@tvg.co.nz or talk to your vet.