At the same time Brian Waymire was hired as manager of Degroot Dairy in Hanford, Calif., the dairy owners were considering the purchase of an automated activity monitoring system.
“I was not a proponent,” Waymire said during his presentation at the DBA’s Dairy Strong Conference held in Madison, Wis., last month. With a price tag of approximately $150 per cow, “That was a lot of money we could be doing something else with,” Waymire explained.
In the end, the decision was made to install the automated activity monitoring technology on the 5,000-cow dairy, and not long after the benefits were clear, especially to Waymire.
“Boy, was I wrong about what this system could really do for us,” he said. “It has allowed me to take control on a daily basis.”
Waymire highlighted a few ways the farm uses the technology, including its importance in feeding the herd. They use rumination data to balance rations and determine starch levels. They are able to use more homegrown feeds in the ration where they best fit, and they avoid feeding errors by making adjustments immediately rather than having them show up in the bulk tank weeks later.
In their fresh cow group, they went from inspecting and taking temperatures of every cow for 10 days (approximately 250 cows per day) to just looking at cows that need attention based on what the activity data tells them.
For reproduction, they dropped five days open on both their Holsteins and Jerseys. They went away from a synchronization program in the first 80 days of lactation and reduced hormone costs by $20,000 annually. They also bumped up their voluntary waiting period.
With better reproduction, they are able to use sexed semen for the first three breedings on all Jersey cows. The Jersey herd is averaging 1.7 services per conception.
In addition, Waymire said that they are better able to utilize labor by putting people where the cows need attention.
As a result of these nutritional, reproductive, and herd health benefits, Waymire estimated that their initial purchase had just a 12-month return on investment. For any future investments to the system, he predicts a 10-month return.