Dr Kamphuis showed the investment pattern and usage of sensors for conventional as well as for automated milking systems in The Netherlands. For conventional milking systems, activity meters/pedometers stand out and for automatic dairy farms, color, electrical conductivity and milk temperature are popular. Reasons to invest in these sensors are mainly about insights into health and the improvement of health/reproduction. In addition, improving farm profitability is an important reason to invest.
Dr Kamphuis continued by comparing conventional and automated dairy farms before and after the introduction of sensor technology: in automated systems there is an increase in the number of cows per farm and in milk production per cow/year. The same development is seen with oestrus detection. What is striking is that with conventional milking, milk production per cow/year decreases.
The performance of sensor technologies is developing rapidly, but this is also related to the monitoring and interpretation of these parameters by farmers and advisors, according to Dr Kamphuis. The use of sensor information is still limited: ‘just 5% of the mastitis alert lists generated are visually checked’. The main reasons given by farmers are: ‘no flakes on filter and no deviation in milk yield’. The consequence is that 75% of detected mastitis is not ‘seen’. Dr Kamphuis concluded that sensor technology is exciting, high-tech and has potential, but that we need to combine this information with our common sense.
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Why treatment plans?
Ensuring that animal health issues are dealt with effectively and that the labour involved in the treatment is efficient is very important, particularly as herd sizes become larger. Farms with an automatic milking system have an extra tool they can use to increase the effectiveness of the treatment, thereby decrease the effort of the farmer has to make to achieve the best results.