A good state of health is the basis for success and good technical results. Peter Willemse from Beers, the Netherlands, did not have to think long when Nedap asked him to test the first version of the updated Health Monitoring module. “I can’t imagine working without it now,” declared the dairy farmer.

Peter Willemse was one of the first dairy farmers to start working with Nedap CowControl’s updated Health Monitoring module in 2016. The SmartTags his cows wear around their necks monitor when the animals are in heat, as well as their eating, rumination and inactive behaviour.

Peter has 150 dairy cows, 130 heads of youngstock and 80 bulls at De Retraite Hoeve, his dairy and breeding farm. Two-thirds of the calves are kept for sale as breeding bulls. With three excellent cows and numerous awards on the wall, cattle breeding is clearly a great passion here. Each year, his cows produce an average of 9,500 litres of milk with 4.6% fat and 3.45% protein.

Urgent attention
It’s Friday afternoon and Peter Willemse is making his rounds of the barn, accompanied by data analysts Arnold Harbers and Eveline de Pont of Nedap. As usual, Peter first takes a look at the Nedap CowControl dashboard. There are already three cows on the urgent attention list, when a fourth cow is suddenly added. It has not shown any eating or ruminating activity for too long a period. This is unusual…

Arnold Harbers explains how the module works. “The dashboard features an urgent attention list, an attention list of animals that need to be checked, and a farm overview. When a cow is added to the attention list, something is wrong: the animal has not eaten or ruminated for a longer period than normal and has therefore been inactive for a longer period.”
“I already know what’s going on with three of the four cows on the attention list,” explains Peter. “Two cows were taken away yesterday and I still need to remove them from the system. When I was milking the third cow this morning, I noticed that she was a bit thin. But that fourth cow is new to the list.” Peter starts looking for her in the barn.

Abnormal behaviour
There’s nothing remarkable about the cow’s appearance. Her rumen fill is a little low, but her temperature is normal and the milk comes out of her four teats easily. “If she hadn’t appeared on the attention list, I wouldn’t have noticed that anything was wrong,” says Peter. When he offers her some extra concentrate feed at the feed fence, she remains uninterested, although her neighbours try to get at the tasty chunks.

Eveline logs into the Nedap CowControl system of De Retraite Hoeve via her smartphone and zooms in on this cow’s status. “She’s on day 17 of her second lactation and hasn’t shown any eating or ruminating activity for the past six hours. Her pattern of behaviour looked normal yesterday, and her milk yield was appropriate this morning,” she notices at a glance. “The cow’s history shows that she had some problems before calving.”

Immediate response
Peter gives the cow an energy preparation against milk fever and pours a liquid painkiller over her back. In the evening, she is still refusing concentrate feed and Peter decides to put her on straw in the separation stall after milking. She may have hardware disease, so a magnet is inserted. A glucose drip and antibiotics should help the cow recover.

The treatment appears to be effective. The following day, the system shows that the cow is already eating normally again. “If I hadn’t received the urgent attention report, I wouldn’t have noticed the problem with this cow until later, and it would have been far harder to resolve the issue. The cow’s recovery would have taken much longer,” the dairy farmer firmly believes.

Keeping one step ahead of health problems
“I like the fact that Peter does something about the alerts right away,” comments Arnold. “Even if it’s simply getting the cow to the feed fence, so he can immediately see whether she’s going to eat again. This means he can stay one step ahead of health problems and keep his results on track.”

“Besides, it’s much nicer when everything’s going smoothly,” laughs Peter. “It saves on a lot of stress. The pleasure of work and the sight of a healthy herd in the barn mean a lot to me.”

Are you interested in rapidly detecting health problems?
Are you considering using Nedap CowControl on your farm as well? Please contact your local Nedap distributor. They will provide you with comprehensive information about the benefits for your business.

Find your distributor