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by Alex Crosbie

Technology and innovation are a critical means by which businesses can become more efficient, productive and profitable.  In the dairy industry the evolution and availability of mobile cow monitoring tools such as e-collars and ear tags enable farmers to accurately and easily monitor activity and rumination.  These emerging technologies pose many questions for producers and service providers, most notably around accuracy, cost benefit and how the investment can be a tool to improve management and ultimately profit.
The Vet Group and our industry partners want Australian dairy farmers to be able to make an informed decision on new technologies, tested in Australian and local conditions. Rather than leaving farms to gamble on a wide range of products available, a study is important so accurate advice can be given to those considering making the considerable investment in these new technologies.
With the support of Dairy Australia and the University of Melbourne, The Vet Group has been fortunate to engage a Masters student Dr. Alex Crosbie to undertake as part of his Dairy Resident Training program, an extensive trial into an integrated health monitoring system provided by SCR.  Using their system, operating on a commercial pasture based dairy farm in the vicinity of Simpson, the project involves collection of data over a three month period to assess how the collars can be used to deliver real outcomes at the producer level.
As part of this process, a vet has performed a full physical exam on each cow calving during the trial period at 5 days in milk.  The information from these assessments will be compared to the data generated by the collars, to see if the system is accurate at identifying when cows are sick, and to determine if it can do this before obvious signs like a drop in milk are present.
Automated health monitoring systems have significant potential to improving the overall health status of a herd by detecting disease earlier, allowing more rapid treatment and by allowing the results of treatment to be monitored more closely. They can also help to compensate for inexperienced milking staff who might not have the skills necessary to detect sick cows when they occur as well as for improved heat detection and conception rates.
Anecdotal evidence from farms that have already invested in these systems suggests that they perform well under Australian conditions, with a solid return on investment. The initial results of this study, available in 2017, will be a step toward backing this up with firm and independent scientific evidence.
This is an exciting project and given the emerging interest from a large number of producers considering an investment in this type of technology, will go a long way toward helping our clients benefit from world leading technology.
For further information Alex can be contacted by calling Farm Services on 1300 838 700.