We are excited to bring you the second of this months animal health and welfare blogs written by our colleagues at VirtualVet in Ireland. This week they discuss the use of innovative, precision feeding systems to improve animal welfare and increase farm productivity.
It is accepted that, as with any social group, cows have a complex social structure, and sometimes certain individuals need a little more space than others. A new feeding system has been installed at Myerscough College to cater for the needs of shy members of the group, especially heifers joining the herd after first calving.
There are several attributes to this feeding system that are interesting, and a represent a positive step in farm management. Anything that promotes cow welfare, as well as reducing costs and increasing yields, is to be welcomed. The gate design, the Afimilk auger, and the inclusion of concentrates bring a sense of precision which has the potential to bring numerous benefits. This precision should also reduce one of the variations seen in eCow bolus data – which feed has the cow eaten? While feeds can be planned and placed in front of a herd of cows, there are often questions as to what each particular cow has managed to eat. Therefore feeding technologies which offer this level of individual catering, can increase the chances of the presented feed being consumed by every individual.
Another interesting feature of this feeding system is opportunity for it to connect, and interact with other feed system technologies. The provides farmers with the ability to co-design and tailor solutions to their own farms and animals, this is crucial in facilitating effective changes. Being able to integrate products from a variety of suppliers to achieve an overarching view of the herd health, and welfare is the ideal solution in modern dairy farming.
Alongside precision feeding technologies, adding individual diagnostic and surveillance tools such as eCow bolus to the mix can verify and validate performance targets. In addition, its use can also enable the early detection of subclinical conditions (such as SARA) before they take hold, and negatively impact both milk production and animal health. We believe that both the external and internal monitoring of herd health delivers the maximum value for money, as well as benefits on both an individual and farm basis.