Kylie has incorporated several user friendly apps and programmes into her smartphone and laptop computer which she uses frequently to help her manage critical tasks like pasture management, AB(artificial breeding) decisions and heifer rearing.
Heifer weights are monitored using a set of scales linked to a mobile device through bluetooth and reading the heifer EID tags. Weigh files are then downloaded to the MINDA Weights programme on Kylie’s laptop.
Lighter animals receive preferential feeding and stay separate until the end of mating in early December.
“We are finding they are now generally tracking at or above weight and the data is easy to access and track,” says Kylie.
Having well grown heifers opens up the options for mating, with AI (artificial insemination) used for two weeks.
“That gives us more choice for introducing high genetic merit replacement heifer calves, and the ability to sell replacement heifer calves from the milking herd.”
Strategic culling in the main herd of up to 10 percent is now possible.
At mating time for the milking herd, Kylie uses her MINDA Lookup application with its dashboard of essential animal details including PW (Production Worth)and BW (Breeding Worth) to determine what genetics will be put into cows as they come on heat.
Cows with a PW less than 100 will get straight friesian genetics in order to get a premium on bull calves, while those above a PW of 100 receive genetics from a crossbred team, as they ultimately aim for a crossbred herd. Definite culls receive short gestation crossbred genetics.
“With higher genetic merit replacements coming in from the heifers, we are able to be a bit more choosy about what we keep in the main herd now,” says Stephen.
The herd is herd tested four times a year, with cow PW and somatic cell count being among the most important herd test figures for Kylie. She also looks for the top producer, usually to settle a bet laid between her and Stephen.
Somatic cell data provides the information to determine which cows receive dry cow therapy and teat sealant at drying off, or teat sealant only, with Stephen working on a 50:50 split for treatment type.
Bulk somatic cell count sits at only about 94,000 through the season.
All the data helps in the pursuit of improving a herd that already falls into the country’s top five percent with its 147 BW and 178 PW.
For Stephen, proof they are achieving their goals in terms of the genetic merit of their herd came this year when one of their bull calves, the son of a standout cow in the herd, was accepted into LIC’s 2015 sire proving team.
“It’s been a goal for a long time and has helped confirm that we are on the right track.”
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy June 2015.