Scott McKillop


Dederang, Victoria, Australia

About the farm

  • 370 dairy cows
  • Synchronization program
  • 80% of cows calve in spring time

Insight into cow behavior leads to better management decisions

For farms that synchronize the cows, it is extremely important to be able to rely on accurate heat detection. For Scott McKillon from Dederang, Australia, the use of Nedap CowControl is the key to better reproduction results and higher work efficiency.

“I think one of the issues is, when you are using a synchronization program is, you have so many cows on heat at the same time”, says Scott McKillop. In Dederang, Victoria he has a dairy farm with three hundred and seventy dairy cows. From the beginning of March to the end of May, about three hundred cows calve at the same time, from mid-August to the end of September, another seventy will follow. This means that just as many cows are in heat and inseminated at the same time on the Australian farm. “Sometimes it’s hard to say, is she in heat, or isn’t she. Because you get lots of cows involved in groups that are bulling everywhere”, explains Scott. “And when a cow comes in with a traditional patch on that has been half rubbed off, I don’t see which cow is really in heat. I think sometimes we put straws of semen in the wrong cows. So it used to be a lot more manual labor and time for visual heat detection in the paddock.”

Grip on heat detection

With the aim of improving efficiency on the dairy farm and obtaining more data to make better decisions, the dairy farmer chose Nedap CowControl. “This system with SmartTags gives us a lot more insight into the heat of cows and their health. That choice has worked out fantastic for us.” Even during milking, Scott already makes an inventory of which cows he needs to inseminate that day, while the cows are already in the yard. That saves Scott a lot of time. “With this system you clearly get the optimal time to inseminate. So that just simplified the whole system significantly and really made a big difference to our time management and use of our labor on our farm.”

More data, better results

The aim to improve the results through more data collection and insight into the animals has been successful. “Our submission rates definitely improved, as well as our first service conception rates”, the entrepreneur shows. “For us it’s about getting more cows in calf in the first service period. So that’s certainly been a benefit.”

Earlier intervention with illness

In addition to heat detection, McKillop also makes full use of health monitoring. “The big advantage of monitoring with the SmartTags is that you gain insight into the eating, rumination and activity pattern. If you see a decrease in feed intake or an increase in inactivity, this could indicate an infection or illness in the cow. So being able to get those alerts on your phone and being able to check those cows, morning or night, it gives you a headstart and trying to improve their health. The result is that cure rates from mastitis are vastly improved and that we’ll now be clearing cows up almost twice as quickly as we have in the past.”

“If you don’t get the transition period right, you pay the price for that throughout the whole lactation”

Transition phase most important period

Scott considers the transition period from dry period, through calving to lactation, to be the most important phase for the cow during her cycle. “If you don’t get the transition period right, you pay the price for that throughout the whole lactation”, he insists. “Having the SmartTags is a really good way of isolating cows that are suffering from a lack of appetite at all, which could indicate ketosis or subclinical milk fever.”

Ration adjustment

Observation of the eating and rumination behavior is also interesting in relation to the ration of the cows. Scott adjusts the cows’ ration based on the intake pattern. “We see a difference in eating and rumination behavior and performance when the cows move from a pasture with typical ryegrass to a pasture with annual oats or with more chicory or pasture herbs. With the pasture herbs they have more active eating. But this actually results in less rumination because there’s not as much fiber in the diet. So we’ve moved towards ensuring that they have free choice cereal high outside of the dairy. Discovering the reasons why you should or should not do something is a really strong part of this system.”

“We can’t imagine not having the system right now. It’s part of our everyday management on the farm”

Payback period

Investing in technology helps companies move forward. But that investment must ultimately pay off. Scott estimates the payback time of the Nedap CowControl system at approximately three years. Thanks to CowControl, he has managed to organize the labor at this single person operation in a smarter way and getting more cows in calf. “It’s difficult to put a value on the health of the animals, but I would say the payback time is comfortably within three years”, says Scott. “We can’t imagine not having the system right now. It’s part of our everyday management on the farm. It helps take a lot of guesswork out of what you’re doing. It’s really the cream on the cake. Or rather: the cream on top of the milk”, he concludes with a laugh.


Improved submission rates

After moving away from traditional patches

Improvement of work efficiency

By not having to rely on visual heat detection

Higher percentage first service conception

By inseminating at the optimal moment in time

Faster recovery and higher cure rate of mastitis cases

Through earlier detection of health problems