‘It’s like my cows can talk’: Improving herd management on a Co. Cork dairy farm

Barry O’Mahony often wished that his cows could talk to him, so he could manage them better. Milking 200 cows in Kilbrittain, Co. Cork, alongside his wife Jane and parents Denis and Siobhan, Barry operates a split block-calving system, calving 40% in the autumn, and 60% in the spring.

He started researching heat detection systems to use on his bulling heifers located 1 mile away from the main yard.

“We initially wanted a system that would allow us to monitor our heifers on an out farm, but when we started researching our options, we saw the benefits CowManager could bring to our entire herd.

“We found that CowManager was unique in the marketplace. It’s ability to accurately provide us with in-depth health, rumination and temperature monitoring means that it is in a league of its own.

“We have a tag on every cow and heifer, and the level of information we now have at our fingertips is phenomenal.”

An ear-tag based sensor

CowManager is a revolutionary ear-tag based sensor, that records each individual cow’s behaviour and temperature. It monitors how long each cow spends eating, ruminating, walking and lying down every hour.

This information is then sent wirelessly back to your computer via CowManager routers. The PC then uploads it onto the CowManager cloud, which in turn gives you health and fertility alerts on your phone, PC or laptop.

“We have two routers in the farmyard, a solar router in the grazing paddocks, and another router on the sheds at the out farm a mile away.

“The whole system is wireless, and the solar router is essential to the system. It means our herd’s data is kept up to date while they’re out grazing.”

Generating alerts

CowManager uses the data gathered from the cows to generate several different health, fertility and nutrition alerts. These are colour-coded according to severity, allowing you to focus on the most critical alerts first.

“The fact that temperature is monitored is crucial from a health point of view. A fresh cow’s health can be difficult to manage, particularly in block calving when you have a lot of cows calving together.

“CowManager makes it so easy. It’s like an extra man watching what the cows are doing all the time, and checking their temperature.

Barry with CowManager Specialist Brian Shorten

“With the CowManager health alerts, it allows us to intervene early, often well before she’s showing visual signs. Early treatment of illnesses is crucial to getting a cow back to her usual self.

“We have reduced our antibiotic usage since installing CowManager; we’re catching illnesses earlier, and as a result we’ve decreased our mortality rates to 0%. This is all due to CowManager.

“The main reason we purchased CowManager was to help with our fertility and heat detection. In the past we were spending a lot of time tail painting and watching cows each breeding season.

“Also, with the introduction of sexed semen, we felt our timing of AI had to be spot on. We’re 100% AI use so we’re hugely dependent on our method of heat detection.

Installing CowManager has been a massive learning curve and shown us that we’ve been inseminating cows too soon in the past. CowManager shows us exactly when she peaked in heat, and the optimum time we should inseminate her.

“Every morning, before milking, one of the team looks at the laptop in the dairy and we see what cows need attention – be it for health alerts or heat alerts.

“They are then drafted out at milking, and they will be there waiting for us for treatment after milking. We all have the CowManager app on our phones as well; I think we have a total of seven or eight users.

“It’s a huge benefit to herd management and definitely the most efficient investment we have made on our farm in the past number of years.”

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about CowManager, just click here