Farming in Carrig, just outside of Birr in north Tipperary, is Jim Delahunty, who since 1997 has grown his family’s farm from a 30-cow operation to a 120-cow enterprise.

Jim credits his succesful expansion primarily, to two things: Significant financial investment in the purchase of quota, buildings and machinery, and a targeted breeding policy.

Jim uses 100% artificial insemination (AI) on the farm to get his cows in-calf each year and boasts consistently high submission and six-week calving rates – which have both been at 90% for the last number of years.

However, he admits this has been very labour intensive on him personally, as it takes a lot of effort and concentration for 12 weeks. In order for the industry to be viable, Jim believes that farmers need to look at ways to reduce the intensity of the labour involved, particularly around heat-detection.

“I am the second youngest of seven and as I grew up every one of us took our turns milking and helped out in the yard,” he said.

“At that time dairy farms had lots of help, but labour is becoming an issue on farms right now.

“In terms of sustainability, we are all becoming more conscious, and rightly so, of the environment and of the sustainability of what we are doing but equally it has to be sustainable for the people that are farming and working on farms.”

Jim Delahunty

Heat detection

Over the last number of years Jim has hired in additional labour to assist in the busy breeding season, as his time was taken with tail painting, monitoring of the herd and recording of heats.

Having seen the benefits of technological advances in other areas of the farm, Jim began to research labour-saving technologies specifically relating to heat detection.  

He was drawn to SenseHub, which provides farmers with detailed information about each animal, including heat alerts, direct to their mobile phone or computer.

The main attraction for Jim was how the technology could assist in optimising conception rates while saving significant time and money in terms of additional labour and the cost associated with missed heats.

In February 2021, Jim engaged with MSD Animal Health Intelligence to install a SenseHub Controller in his yard and fit his 120-cows with SenseHub collars. After using the system for one lactation, he says that the technology has enhanced efficiencies and greatly reduced the time he has to spend on the farm.

“Now before I reach the yard, I know what cows need to be drafted this morning and this evening,” he said.

“If I’m not on milking duty and somebody else is milking the cows it’s simply a text message and they get the numbers of the cows that need to be out for AI. It removes the necessity for me to be here.

“Before this, regardless of who was milking I had to be here but now I can manage it remotely.”

“I had a lot of experience in heat detection and very good submission rates but all of those targets were met again using SenseHub, without the need for tail paint, and me not here at all times,” he added.

Health monitoring

Jim was attracted to SenseHub initially for heat detection and was not aware of the additional health detection benefits for his herd.

“The health monitoring of the cows was something I knew very little about, it was the heat detection I was sold on, but it has proved very beneficial,” he said.

“It has flagged cows with stomach issues and we have picked them up 12-24 hours earlier than we would have otherwise have detected them.

“Early detection and early diagnosis is reducing our dependence on antibiotics. In view of everybody trying to reduce their antibiotic use for AMR reasons we are finding that SenseHub has something to offer in terms of lowering the usage on this farm,” he said.

Jim believes that information is power and that embracing technology on farms is key to safeguarding the future of the sector.

“In order for dairy farming to be sustainable, it’s about environmental sustainability yes but it is also about human sustainability,” Jim continued.

“It has to be a nicer place to work.

“I didn’t work as hard as my father and mother at this, and I would hope that if the next generation takes it on, they won’t need to work as hard and they can use technology to make it a more lifestyle friendly occupation,” he concluded. 

SenseHub is brought to you by Allflex Livestock Intelligence, an MSD Animal Health Intelligence brand and a global leader in animal identification and monitoring devices.

For more information on SenseHub, click here.