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Implementing Alta Cow Watch

Good heat detection is of crucial importance at the Koepon dairy farm in Feerwerd, Groningen. Alta Cow Watch, based on Nedap technology, was first implemented there in November 2016. This system combines accurate heat detection with health monitoring. This provides valuable information about eating, ruminating, inactive and other active behavior. It ensures that cows that have recently calved will now be far better monitored. “It’s no longer based on “feeling”, but rather on factual information. This provides certainty”, say the Operations manager and Herd manager.

We spoke to Herd manager Alex Borst  and Operations manager Marcel Rijkers, two experts who, by their own admission, together have quite a bit of experience with cows. Marcel: “If you then look at everything the system is able to do…” And Alex adds: “We used to do health monitoring based on feelings and assumptions.” Marcel: “If a given cow provides between 20 and 22 liters per milking, everything seems to be going well. But then you look at the system and see that she only spends about two hours a day eating. This means that she will be losing weight, resulting in a negative energy balance. Now we know this and can make adjustments accordingly.”

Heat detection and health monitoring

Heat detection has been used for many years at the Koepon dairy farm. The 400 dairy and calving cows are almost all used as recipients for embryos. This is why good heat detection is essential, as the very valuable embryos need to be implanted exactly seven days later. For years, a different heat detection system was used with satisfactory results. Before switching over to investing in Alta Cow Watch with health monitoring, the two managers wanted to know whether the new system would detect a cow in heat at least as accurately and reliably. This is why both systems were used side by side for a month. The conclusion: both the cows in heat and the correct insemination moment are exactly indicated. “But the main value lies in health monitoring”, they both add. The first thing a cow does when it falls ill is to eat less.

koepon Cows Feeding

Monitoring the transition list adds a lot of value

According to the Herd manager and the Operations manager, the health monitoring system adds most value by monitoring the transition list. This easily allows them to track the cows that have calved during the past week. “Any cow that doesn’t feed sufficiently will show up as an attention in the system. A cow is only allowed to return from the straw box to the herd when she eats and ruminates sufficiently.” This limits the number of cows with a negative energy balance, which indicates health problems. There are usually no problems with heifers and second-calf cows. It is the older cows that need a little more attention in their experience. Alex: “Sometimes you don’t notice anything about a cow. If she is not fit, however, and has an ongoing negative energy balance, then sending her back to the herd can result in permanent damage.” In the past, the decision was based on feelings and assumptions. “You were actually simply guessing. Thanks to health monitoring, we are now able to monitor them far more accurately and make individual adjustments: cows that really need it will get propylene glycol, while the others will not.”

By combining the data about eating and ruminating, you know exactly what the situation is and can ensure optimal milk production per cow. Alex can also see this in the milk production per cow: “We used to have the group in lactation for up to 60 days, with average milk production always 2 to 3 points lower than for the group from 60 to 120 days. Now the first group is doing just as well as the second group. They start off well and are given something extra when they need it.” Marcel Rijkers states: “By being able to monitor our heifers better and basing our planning accordingly, we are managing to produce 2 liters of milk per cow per day more during the first 60 days in lactation, which means that both the groups, from 0-60 and from 60-120 days, are managing average milk production of between 42 and 43 kg of milk per day.”

Earlier intervention and more targeted treatment

The cows are milked three times a day. Despite that, the system regularly detects that a cow is unwell before the milkers notice it, Marcel explains. “For example, a cow may be milked at 1 PM and will develop a coli infection an hour or two later. This is painful and the cow will not eat. We will then get a message from the system by 8 PM, whereas the cow would otherwise have only come out of the milking parlor at 10 PM.” This allows you to intervene sooner and provide the cows with more targeted treatment. This saves on antibiotics and money, according to the Operations manager. The system allows Marcel and Alex to keep an eye on sick cows at an early stage. Marcel Rijkers: “12 hours before an illness becomes apparent, we usually know whether the cow has fallen ill, as she will eat and ruminate less. This allows you to take action sooner and prevent milk production from dropping.”

Valuable management information

Access to this information is not only useful for heifers. At the Koepon dairy farm, the system has also produced very interesting management information on older dairy cows and dry cows. The influence of the eating time, the provision of the feed, the type of rations or the lighting in the barn – everything has been recorded, along with the ruminating behavior.

Thus the Koepon dairy farm has concluded that health monitoring with Alta Cow Watch offers them significant added value. “It is difficult to express in financial terms, but I think that, as a capital-intensive company, we have managed to recoup our investment in health monitoring alone even faster than a conventional dairy farm”, Marcel estimates. “We were able to recoup the costs within two or three years.” The most important aspect, according to Marcel and Alex, is the following: “Health monitoring lifts the overall health of the animal to a higher level, thus improving production results. This makes the system unique.”

 

Original Article from Nedap

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Not all genomic sires are created equal

Genomic proofs give us the confidence to use exciting sires sooner! Be assured that these bulls will deliver on their genetic promises, since genomic testing provides an immediate reliability of nearly 70% for production, health and conformation traits.

You might be wondering, what are the different genomic sire options? Let’s break them down…

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Alta ADVANTAGE

Our 23 newest bulls are available only to our Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. These Alta ADVANTAGE only sires offer diverse trait specialties and elite rankings on many customized genetic plans.

New, young bulls simply don’t produce enough semen to be readily available to all farms around the globe. So while we work to build semen inventory, we give our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds priority access to these elite, new sires that best fit their customized genetic plans.

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G-STARS

Once a bull has made enough semen he is added to the G-STAR sire list. With 30 new G-STAR bulls this proof round, these sires are readily available to everyone. This groups includes a wide array of outliers for various production, health and type traits. From this elite list, you can find a great selection of bulls to fit your genetic plan.

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FUTURE STARS

About a year after a bull is first released, we know results for both sire fertility and calving ease. We gather this data, analyze the results, and award the FUTURE STAR designation to only the bulls that prove themselves above average for sire fertility and less than 8% for sire calving ease and sire stillbirth.

This proof round, 13 bulls earned their FUTURE STAR status. This means they gained enough pregnancy check observations to prove their high fertility CONCEPT PLUS status. Plus, they have enough offspring born to prove their easy calvings.

FUTURE STARS are the way to go if you want the benefits of elite genomics, but prefer the added reliability of proven sire fertility and calving ease. You may give up some production and health as compared to the available G-STAR or ADVANTAGE only sires, but you gain peace of mind knowing that you’re upping your chances for a pregnancy and a live calf resulting from an easier calving.

Because of the known calving ability, FUTURE STARS are ideal options to use on heifers.

Now that you know the difference between each genomic sire option, and the progression a bull could make as he matures, compare the average genetic level of each group in the table below. You’ll see that the newest, Alta ADVANTAGE bulls have the highest genetic averages, followed by the G-STAR sires, and then by the more highly reliable FUTURE STARS.

TPIMilkFatProPTATUDCFLCSCEPLDPRSCS
Alta ADVANTAGE Only2743156777582.062.121.307.18.13.02.80
G-STAR2633161172581.761.721.096.96.82.32.86
FUTURE STAR2547136265501.481.591.006.46.82.12.78

It’s also important to note that every single bull atop our current daughter-proven list was once a part of the genomic-proven lists. The track record is significant for our current genomic favorites. Each proof round, we see these genomic bulls deliver on their initial predictions, and eventually graduate to daughter-proven success.

With that in mind, have confidence to use a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists. You’ll optimize future profitability by selecting a group of bulls that meet your customized goals for production, health and conformation.

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Daughter-proven options to fit your genetic plan

When it comes to sire proofs, is high reliability part of your genetic plan? If so, select from several different sire options atop our daughter-proven lineup that are either new to the proven ranks or have just added new daughter information.

These bulls offer a wide range of trait specialties to fit many different customized genetic plans.

11HO11478 AltaLEAF | AltaOAK X TRIGGER X PLANET | CP | 2689 TPI

  • Perfect balance of production, health, fertility and type
  • Improved on pounds of milk and fat, PL, DPR and type with new daughters added
  • Moderate sized cows with wide rumps, and excellent udders
  • #8 daughter-proven TPI sire in the industry

11HO11437 AltaSPRING | MOGUL X GERARD X MASCOL | 2563 TPI

  • Now over 3.00 for UDC – outstanding, high, wide rear udders and strong fore udder attachments
  • Moderate-sized cows with great balance of dairyness and strength
  • International producer favorite!

11HO11337 AltaCAIN | MAUI X INDIANA X LEVI | CP | 2560 TPI

  • Fat yield improver and low somatic cell score
  • High fertility Concept Plus status paired with excellent daughter fertility traits
  • Outcross sire with functional conformation traits on moderate sized cows

11HO11380 AltaROBLE | MOGUL X OBSERVER X SHOTTLE | CP| 511 | 2557 TPI

  • Health and type trait specialist
  • A high fertility Concept Plus sire that’s also at an elite 4.1 DPR!
  • Stylish, high type daughters with outstanding udders (+3.11 UDC)

11HO11419 AltaLEGAL | MOGUL X PLANET X LYNCH | CP | 511 | 2525 TPI

  • Production specialist
  • Great milk yield and outstanding components
  • Functional type traits, with excellent height and width of rear udders

11HO11379 AltaRABO | MOGUL X OBSERER X SHOTTLE | CP | 2520 TPI

  • Medium-sized cows with great dairyness
  • Type, udder and foot & leg improver
  • A high fertility sire with low calving ease

11HO1422 AltaJAKE | PETRONE X OBSERVER X GOLDWYN | CP | 511 | 2520 TPI

  • Health trait specialist at 8.2 PL
  • Fertility leader at 5.2 DPR and with the coveted Concept Plus high fertility sire status
  • Moderate stature, youthful cows with great dairyness

11HO11493 AltaHOTROD | JEROD X AltaIOTA X GOLDWYN | CP | 2483 TPI

  • New graduate from Future Star status – with high sire fertility and low calving ease
  • Tall, long, stylish cows
  • Youthful, well-attached udders – protect for short teats
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