Technological breakthroughs and new automation are what dairy producers have come to expect at World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., but an announcement by the world's largest dairy equipment company during the 2010 show this week still has our heads spinning.

To put it simply, management of three of the biggest profit-draining problems on dairies – mastitis, heat detection, and subclinical ketosis – may have just became fast, easy, and accurate.

In a special press briefing February 9, DeLaval said "Herd Navigator," a computerized in-line milking analysis system that automatically identifies cows that are in heat, cows that are about to develop mastitis, and cows that have subclinical ketosis, will become available in the U.S., but declined to specify when. How confident are they that the system is for real? Confident enough to fly in its president and CEO from Sweden and its parent firm's CEO from Switzerland to share in the announcement.

Fernando Mazeris, D.V.M., director, Product Portfolio Dairy Management and Nutrition, said the system automatically tests each cow's milk for progesterone to identify those that are coming into heat; for lactate dehydrogenase, an enzyme highly correlated with somatic cells; and for beta hydroxybutyrate, which is produced when cows are in negative energy balance.

Herd Navigator is already in use in Europe. Mazeris said farmers there have seen staggering heat detection accuracy of up to 98 percent and pregnancy rates of up to 45 percent. In its current stage of development the system can handle up to a double-16 parlor.

Individually, any of these three tools would be a huge dairy management breakthrough. Collectively, they are nothing short of a quantum leap. "We think so, too," said DeLaval president and CEO Joakim Rosengren.