As producers, nutritionists, veterinarians and researchers find more ways to utilize the information generated by rumination monitoring systems, users can rest assured that there is sound science behind the technology and the resulting management strategies. Here’s a look at some of the latest research to illustrate the reliability and scope of the technology—and its influence on dairy management decisions. The results all have one thing in common—the data verify that rumination monitoring systems offer users predictive, actionable data that they can use to improve individual cow, group and herd management.

Health Research Recap

Early warning of health-related challenges is a significant benefit of rumination monitoring systems.

·         Data from Cornell University presented at the 2015 American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) Annual Meeting reinforces the predictive ability of rumination data. Results from this study show that animal monitoring systems reliably indicate an incidence of a displaced abomasum as many as three days prior to the appearance of physical symptoms.

o    Cases of ketosis were also detected using the system. The system helped discover cases about a day-and-a-half before physical symptoms appeared.

o    Cases of general stomach upsets were apparent about a half-day earlier than with visual observation.

·         Research regarding the system’s ability to diagnose health challenges in transition dairy cows conducted at the University of Guelph found similar results. Again, researchers were able to consistently identify second lactation and higher cows with ketosis and other health issues based on changes in rumination during the transition period. The largest differences in rumination time between healthy and cows with subclinical ketosis were seen between one week prior to calving, one week after calving and two weeks after calving. Respectively, cows with subclinical ketosis ruminated 48 ± 17.2 minutes per day, 73 ± 16 minutes per day and 65 ± 19.4 minutes per day less (P ≤ 0.005) than healthy cows. These data were also presented at the 2015 ADSA Annual Meeting.

·         Data presented at the 2015 Western Dairy Management Conference from the University of Minnesota show a clear, linear relationship between the prevalence of subclinical ketosis and inconsistent pre-fresh rumination. Similarly, inconsistent pre-fresh rumination is also related to increased prevalence of subclinical hypocalcemia. As rumination decreases or fluctuates before calving, the risk of metabolic disorders increases.

Reproduction Recap

Animal monitoring systems can also positively impact reproductive programs.

·         Researchers in Germany recently evaluated when rumination time decreased in relation to estrus. The results published in the January 2015 Journal of Dairy Science showed that rumination time was reduced for about 30 hours around estrus. The most significant drop in rumination occurred during the time period between six hours the day before estrus and 12 hours on the day of estrus.

·         Researchers in Ireland recently explored how to use animal monitoring systems to determine the best time to inseminate cows. The results were published in the March 2015 Journal of Dairy Science. The researchers determined that there was a relationship between observed estrous-related behavior, activity clusters (as detected by the animal monitoring system), endocrine profiles and ovulation time. The results mean activity monitors can help identify the optimum time to perform artificial insemination (A.I.) before the predicted time of ovulation. This optimum time is, on average, between nine and 15 hours after the activity cluster has been triggered.

·         Canadian researchers recently found that measurements of estrus events captured by automated activity monitors are correlated with body condition score, parity and secondary behavior signs related to estrus. Estrous intensity and duration were only weakly correlated with milk production, preovulatory follicle diameter and concentrations of estradiol at estrus. Cows that had measurements of high-intensity estrus were significantly more fertile than low-intensity estrus. Results were published online in the Journal of Dairy Science on Aug. 5, 2015.

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