For Te Awamutu dairy farm manager Mike Anderson and his staff, mating time for their 520 cow herd is the same as it is for everyone. It’s a task critical to next season’s success, but also time consuming, demanding and dependent upon a good team capable of picking up every heat.
Mike has spent 10 years managing the farm for owner Mike O’Connor and has enjoyed some solid herd mating statistics in that time.
This includes hitting an 82% six week in calf rate that put the farm ahead of the national target of 78% and well up on the national average of 65%. The herd has also recorded good three-week submission rates of 88-89% most years.
“Performance has dropped back slightly in the last couple of years, and we have been working hard to lift it back up again,” says Mike.
One of the tools he used this season to help with that is the Flashmate® Electronic Heat Detector, from Gallagher.
The standalone heat detection device attaches to cows and monitors their heat behaviour constantly. Identification of heat behaviour causes it to flash red for 26 hours, ample time to identify the cow, draft her off and ensure she is inseminated.
“It also meant in the early morning when it’s still dark you could see them in the paddock, get their numbers and know you needed them out at milking time.
Flashmate will continue to monitor the cow for subsequent heats and if she does not have another heat after 25 days it will commence flashing green, meaning she is possibly in-calf.
Mike acknowledges mating targets can be among the hardest to hit as performance indicators, with management, staff, weather, body condition score and feed levels all playing their part.
“We felt that Flashmates might help, they just make identification of cows on heat simpler.”
It also helped maintain detection accuracy in the times when Mike was not able to be in the shed checking for heats himself.
Mike and his staff found the devices very easy to apply, requiring no special drafting, putting them on during milking in the herringbone dairy.
“It was just a case of giving the cows’ backs a rub to clean them up, spraying on the special glue supplied, and then just attaching the Flashmates to the glue spot.”
Positioning the Flashmates correctly ensured they could be seen from the milking pit, easing the challenge of having to climb up and check for rubbing that tail painting alone usually requires.
“Having said that we did continue to use tail paint, given the Flashmates were something new, and we would have done that regardless of whatever it was we were trying for the first time.”
“In cases where the Flashmate was activated and the tail paint was not rubbed, we would give the Flashmate the benefit of the doubt, and put the cow up for insemination.”
Submission rates with the Flashmate are sitting at similar levels to past years, on 90% over three weeks, and Mike has yet to have the herd scanned.
“But my feeling after 10 years with this herd is that we are pretty much on track to be in the mid to high 70s for six week in calf percentage."