Kempsey dairy farmers Phillip and Kate Hand have seen multiple benefits using Allflex electronic collar monitoring technology in their herd and now believe it will help the efficiency of sexed semen joinings.
The Hands run around 250 head including replacements, of which they aim to milk around 130 to 140 at any given time through their nine-a-side swing over dairy across 450 acres.
"We have some Brown Swiss, Holstein and crossbreds, with a fair bit of Jersey influence in the herd," Mrs Hand said. "We try and keep our Brown Swiss and Holstein straight and AI (artificially inseminate) them in the dairy for genetic improvement."
They began using 50 collars 18 months ago, but have increased to 90 units for heat detection and joining, disease monitoring, herd health and wellbeing, and nutrition.
"We try to breed cows throughout the year and aim to calve down around 13 cows per month roughly, so we keep the herd fresh throughout the year," she said.
Mrs Hand said collar data meant they were no longer relying on gut instinct and visually identification of the cow in heat.
Pregnancy test results from their vets have shown improved in-calf rates as a result of the heat detection technology.
"When managing so many cows, you don't have time to watch all day long. You can't argue with data - if it says it is unwell, it needs attention," she said.
The Hands plan to genomic test their heifers and work with their Semex representative to select sires suitable to improve herd while considering value for money.
Recently genomically testing 50 heifers, the Hands will put a collar on the top 25 per cent and join them to sexed semen.
Identifying when to use sexed semen, based on whether the cow has a good strong heat, or a risky heat, may be the next step.
"You don't want to waste (sexed semen) on a risky heat," she said.
"The heat index is out of 100 based on how highly they rate for quality of heat. We will use information as well (strong heat, fresh, this is the first heat to breed on and so on) to say this is a good candidate for sexed semen."
The use of the data provided by the system helps to make decisions quicker and easier, by taking out a lot of the thought processes and time spent discussing everything, Mrs Hand said.
"My husband (Phil) is happy from the perspective it is one less job he has to do," she said. "It is usually a one-man show, with a casual milker on occasions, but my husband does everything from paddock/pasture management to milking, to AI, and feeding cows and do on.
"If we didn't have collars, and have a cow jumping in the middle of the herd, you have to stop and try find her number and keep track of her."
Heat detecting based off visual monitoring can be tricky, and Mrs Hand said she wanted to provide her husband with all the tools available to make the job easier and it has.
The Hands will use the extra collars on cows leading up the calving to see the benefits in monitoring rumination, activity levels and calving.
Electronic management collars boost bottom lines
Dairy producers are optimising pregnancy rates and herd health with the use of electronic monitoring systems using special ear tags or collars.
Helping decrease labour and running costs on farm, giving more time to farmers to focus on other tasks, as well as boosting wellbeing of animals, the Allflex Livestock Intelligence dairy cow monitoring solution combines cow monitoring and livestock identification technology.
Allflex national marketing manager Kirstyn McKay, Queensland, said the functions of the collars and tags are extensive, but the most significant features that really gets a farmer's attention are heat detection, rumination monitoring, and identifying heat stress and significant health issues.
While it is currently available and being taken up by many dairy farmers from a range of regions, beef producers will have to wait for more product development in the area to better suit Australian conditions.
"From a dairy stand point, we have dairy farms have been using the products for a long time," she said.
The monitoring tags, either in the collar or tag form, run on a high frequency signal with their life span determined by the battery life. Ear tags last about three years, and collars seven years.
Retention rates are high, with less than one per cent lost.
"Tags being in the ear run a higher risk, but have a very high retention rate from what we know," Ms McKay said.
"Same with the collars - improvements in woven material has made them very heavy -duty robust."
Correct placing of the collar is important, said Mrs Russell who recommends ensuring the monitoring device sits on the left side of the animal's neck next to the jugular with the weight hanging on the bottom.