The daily life of a dairy farmer can be exhausting. From milking, to fertility checks, to health checks, the workload is endless.

There is also a constant worry that something may go wrong, such as a health issue going unnoticed, turning into a far worse situation. Such was the experience of Martin Kennedy, a dairy farmer in Co. Tipperary.

Along with his parents, Kennedy runs a 120ac farm with a 230-cow herd. When they first moved to their current location in 2006, they installed a 14-unit Fullwood milking machine which offered the most modern technology of that time.

In 2019, the family decided to upgrade their parlour to a larger Fullwood 24-unit parlour in order to accommodate their growing herd.

In 2020, when the Kennedys decided to start using monitoring collars on their cows, they realised that they had two different monitoring systems – one for the herd, and one for the parlour.

When the Kennedys decided to put collars on the cows in 2020, they soon learned they would have two different systems for monitoring the cows and managing the parlour – and would have to decide on which system to operate the drafting gate.

Afimilk was the chosen system as it eliminated the issue as it controls the milking parlour and collar all from the same system.

One system for lots of information

Switching everything to one system offered a much more streamlined experience. It was then possible for the Kennedys to look at one screen and find all of the relevant information, including: Health monitoring, milk production, feeding, drafting and heat detection.

Suddenly, keeping track of all varied information from different sources became much easier, freeing up time and available labour, and relieving a lot of stress.

Speaking about his experience transitioning to Afimilk’s system, Martin said: “It streamlined things for me, and I was able to work by looking at one terminal [app] and seeing all of the information about the cows on one.”

Dairy farmer Martin Kennedy
Martin Kennedy

“It has health monitoring, milk production, it has their feeding, it has their drafting and their fertility. To me this was very important as a time-saving tool,” he added.

Fertility tracking reimagined

The six-week long breeding season was historically the most intense time for the Kennedys.

It involved tail-painting and looking at and checking cows before milking, during the day, before letting them back into the barn in the evening, and again during the night.

This extremely time-consuming process was even more intense than the calving season.

With the Aficollars, the need to manually check the cows so many times a day has been completely eliminated.

This process has been replaced with automatic reports from the system. One glance at the screen provides updated information on which cows are ready for insemination.

The time saved is immeasurable, and more importantly, Martin receives the right information for the right cows, at the right time.

The collars the dairy farmer choose

Keeping cows healthy

For the first time, Martin is able to go on vacation or be away from the farm without a constant fear of a cow falling ill negatively impacting milk production hanging over his head.

Afimilk’s Afi2goprime app on Martin’s phone contains all of the information he needs for his cows, alerting him to any potential health issues if they arise.

The Afir2goprime app is the best tool any dairy farmer can have. Martin confirms this by adding: “I can enter codes for antibiotics/treatments or draft a cow from anywhere in the world using the app on my phone.”

As antibiotics can impact milk quality, it is always ideal to spot health issues as early as possible so that the cow can be successfully treated with a minimal amount of antibiotics.

With the continuous health monitoring offered by Afimilk’s software – cow and milk sensors – any issues including mastitis and other health conditions can be detected much faster than they would be with manual checks.

Discussing the benefits of Afimilk’s software’s health monitoring features, Martin said: “If we can get to a cow and treat them quicker, we might not need to use antibiotics.

“This is a long-term benefit of having the collars and their interaction with the milk machine.”

Benefits the dairy farmer sees

Overall, Martin has seen three major benefits to his farming operation since making the switch to Afimilk.

These benefits include:

  1. Fertility: Receiving the right information for the right cows at the right time has been crucial to inseminating the cows during their peak fertility period. This saves significant time that was previously spent on manual checks. The increased accuracy also results in a higher success rate;
  1. Real-time information: The constant supply of information regarding the fat, protein and lactose content of the herd’s milk is invaluable. It is clear to see exactly how the management of the process and milking decisions impact the output. If the milk properties are not ideal, changes can be made until the optimal amounts of fat, protein and lactose are found in the milk;
  1. Ongoing health monitoring: This feature is similar to having a full-time herdsman who is always walking around and monitoring the cows. However, instead of having someone employed, who is unable to be everywhere at once and is subject to making errors, it can all be done automatically through the Afimilk collars.

The combination of the information from the collars and the milk machine provides a continuous full picture of a cow’s overall health and status – not just a snapshot based on just a few parameters.

Now that Martin has all of his herd’s information on one platform, he can see each cow’s movements and eating patterns and can be quickly alerted to any issues with rumination, mastitis or other health issues.

He can also determine whether the milk production is being impacted by any of these issues so that the situation can be remedied quickly.

“We have a full picture of the cow’s health all the time, and if there’s a problem we are learning about it quicker than we could visually see it ourselves,” concluded Martin.

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