FlashMate® 'Takes away the stress' from calving

Taranaki dairy farmer and AI technician assistant Irene Phillips works hard on the farm.

She’s up before 3am, out in the paddocks getting ready for milking – a job she shares with her mother, Helen Phillips, on a small farm at Okato.

Between them, they milk around 170 cows on 70 effective hectares. Irene calls the cows “her lollipop herd” – they include Ayrshire, milking shorthorn, Jersey-cross, three-way cross, and Holstein Friesian breeds. Adding to the eclectic mix are beef cattle, such as Murray Grey and Red Devon.

When it comes to calving, Phillips says FlashMate takes all the stress out of the equation. “I highly recommend it, to my artificial breeding clients and other farmers.”

FlashMate® Touch activated in-heat detectors are an innovative heat detection device developed in New Zealand that is garnering a lot of praise from farmers, both in New Zealand and abroad.

“Mum and I no longer feel stressed during calving season, which is typically the most stressful time of the year for farmers. Instead, we can laugh and joke and focus on other things,” says Phillips, who has been using FlashMate since 2016.

FlashMate is a small plastic dome housing touch-screen electronics that, when attached to the rump of a cow, can accurately detect riding activity that indicates the cow is in heat. The device flashes red for 26 hours, signaling to the farmer that the cow is ready for artificial insemination (AI).

Once AI has occurred, if the same cow does not come back into heat within 25 days, FlashMate will flash green to indicate possible conception.

Phillips says FlashMate has increased her in-calf rates significantly. This season 169 of Phillips’ 170 cows have got in calf this year using FlashMate (over a seven-week, five-day period).

Last season, using FlashMate, their empty rate was 11 percent across eight weeks in a challenging season. “Before FlashMate we were right up at 30 percent empty and the worst season was 35 percent empty across a nine-week calving pattern,” says Phillips. “For me, FlashMate means peace of mind.”

Phillips no longer uses tail paint. “We are relying solely on FlashMate now,” she says.

One advantage is that it is easy for farmers and farm workers to see then a cow is ready for AI. “What I like about it, my mum is short-sighted and when we are out in the paddock at 3am, and it’s pitch black and we are tired, you see that blinking red light and you can easily identify which cows are ready for AI.”

It really helps with cows that have a short window for conception. “We had one cow, a purebred Ayrshire, which only had a six-hour window to get in-calf. In the past, she would come into the shed and moo and we’d know she was ready for AI, but it was easy to miss that. With FlashMate we don’t miss the opportunity for AI. There is no guessing… Is she bulling? Isn’t she bulling? It takes the guesswork out of it.”

She says the devices are easy to apply and use, effective and accurate, and save farmers time and money in the long run. Preparation is key to successful application, says Phillips.

FlashMate are simple to use, meaning peace of mind for both farmers and farm workers. “If you get a relief milker in, you don’t have to worry [about missing the window for AI]. You just tell them to look for the red light. This means that as the dairy farm owner, Mum can take time off and not worry. The worker only has to look in the AI book to make sure the cow wasn’t mated the day before, it’s that easy,” says Phillips.

Gallagher's FlashMate® Touch activated in-heat detectors come in 24 or 96 pack options and come with spray glue to ensure a strong durable bond.

An AI technician assistant for more than 15 years, Phillips says she’s converted more than half of her clients to FlashMate “and they are absolutely stoked”.

“FlashMate on cows takes away the risk factor during the most important time of year for farmers. You can’t make money from empty cows, and FlashMate means you don’t have to worry about that.”

The product, which is marketed and distributed by Gallagher, won the international innovation and agribusiness category in the 2016 National Agricultural Fieldays Innovation Awards. Recently FlashMate was also finalist alongside Team NZ for the 2018 New Zealander of the Year Innovation Award

Phillips shops at Farm Source in New Plymouth, and recommends other Farm Source customers try FlashMate to benefit their farm business. “Most farmers look at the cost, but tail paint doesn’t even compare when you think of the stress it saves and the potential extra money you can make with getting more cows in-calf.”

To see how FlashMate can benefit your in-calf rate see our online calculator.

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