Farmer Focus: Activity monitor helps lift pregnancy rate

Fieldwork is far from our minds with the ground being so wet. As is often the case, I imagine everything will be squeezed into a tiny work window.

The ice-cream business has started recruiting ready to reopen at Easter. Anna has designed this year’s maize maze but, as we can’t travel with a quad bike, never mind a tractor, we won’t worry about that yet.

The cows are still performing very well, although we have lost a little milk quality after moving from first to third cut.

See also: How a new transition shed helped lift pregnancy rates to 35%

About the author

Tom Stable
Tom Stable and family, Ulverston, Cumbria, milk 300 Holsteins twice a day, producing milk for Arla and ice cream for their Cumbrian Cow brand. The 215ha operation, of which half is rented, grows grass, maize, and winter wheat. Cows average 10,800 litres.
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At the turn of each year, Arla adjusts the fat-to-protein payment ratio. It has moved more of our milk price towards fat for 2024, so I have added the protected fat C16 back into the ration.

We will keep a close eye on things to make sure this is returning a margin.

The cows are ticking along nicely, hitting our targets for fertility and mastitis while suffering from very few transition issues.

We installed CowManager in 2021, the first activity monitor-type technology we have ever had, and it has made a massive difference.

We thought we were good at spotting heats but, as numbers increased, it became more difficult.

The tags have lifted pregnancy rate from about 22% to 28%, while also reducing the amount of synchronisation programmes we run.

Early diagnosis of sick cows has made a real difference too. The data have allowed us to iron out some issues to improve overall herd health.

In March, I will retire from the Lancashire Holstein club executive committee, which I have been a member of for nearly 10 years.

The annual stock-judging nights were one of the things that sparked my interest in cows when I was young, and I met my wife, Anna, at a Holstein young breeders’ event, so I owe the club quite a bit.

The value of being pedigree has undoubtably reduced from its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, but with ever-dwindling numbers in our industry, anything that brings us together is a positive.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the committee, especially my time as chairman and president in 2020-2022, a process I was guided through brilliantly by Sheila Robinson MBE.