Ear sensors a game changer

Jason Burleigh with one of his cows.

Jason Burleigh is a fourth-generation dairy farmer who has been full-time in the job since he was 16.

He spent his teen years working on his parents’ farm at Nullawarre, in south-west Victoria. The farm has been his since July 2011.

Along with wife Abby, and their nine-year-old daughter, they run 250 cows.

“It’s a family-run operation,” Jason said.

“We do all tasks ourselves, except for the artificial insemination of the cows.”

That’s where technology comes in.

All 250 cows have ear sensors, monitoring their activity, behaviour, eating time, resting time and rumination 24/7.

“We started working with CowManager in 2015,” Jason said.

“We chose the system because of the simplicity of installing and replacing an ear tag, and for monitoring heat detection and health.”

He said it had improved their way of working.

“The system has enabled us to increase our in-calf rates by not missing any heats. Due to this, it has enabled us to tighten our seasonal calving pattern.”

A close-up of one of Jason’s cows with the ear sensor.

Better calving, better care

Jason and Abby used to monitor fertility visually with scratchies on the cows’ backs.

Any health or nutrition issues were also gauged visually.

“We know, going off previous years, that by running CowManager we are now calving down a much greater number of cows in the first three weeks of calving,” Jason said.

“We are now not missing heats in the cows, and we are ensuring they get in-calf quicker.”

Whenever a cow is on heat the system will send a notification in real-time, indicating the intensity of the heat and the best window of opportunity to inseminate.

The same goes for health; whenever a cow is underperforming, a notification pops up on the farmer’s phone and desktop.

Jason said the attention and care for their cows hadn’t changed since using technology, however, monitoring their cows 24/7 had been a great help in catching sick or at-risk cows early.

“It is integral to any herd that operators are still constantly keeping a visual eye on their animals.

“But we are now able to quickly pick up on any health issues, therefore treating cows before they become gravely ill or sometimes before they even show signs of illness.”

Making life easier

The biggest personal advantage for Jason is he can check on their cows wherever and whenever he wants to.

“It has been very handy when called away from the farm, to be able to just text through the on-heat cows to our relief milker, so they can catch those cows that are ready for AI.

“I’m able to check cows 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The system has a mobile app which has made such a difference as we can check our herd whenever and wherever we need to.”

Aside from the tech enabling Jason to have better control and even better care for his herd, whenever something does require an extra set of eyes, he says the support has been amazing.

“CowManager’s local representative Chris Kendall has offered us exceptional service and support — at any hour of the day or night.

“I would recommend CowManager to other dairy producers because the easy-to-attach ear tags are user friendly and animal friendly.

“The ability to detect a heat in cows that would not normally have had their scratchy scratched, indicating a heat, has been such a game changer for us. No more missed heats”

For more information, and to get in touch with a local representative, go to: www.cowmanager.com/Australia