Have you ever been driving along a country road and gazed at the dairy cows roaming the pasture? As you looked a little closer, you might have noticed that these cows were wearing collars. “Why on earth would a cow need a collar?” you might wonder. Not all cows sport collars, but many do and there a few different reasons for it:
1. The collar might hold an identification tag with a number or name for each cow.
2. The collar may hold a bell to identify bulls or aggressive cows. The bell helps relay the message, “Hey! Watch out, this guy is mean!”
3. Many smaller farms milk their cows in a tie stall barn and use collars to tie the cows up during milking time.
4. The collar may hold a pedometer to help relay information to the farmer.
All the cows on our farm wear a collar with a pedometer and it is part of an activity system. The pedometer monitors the cows’ activity and relays the information to our computer. This piece of technology allows us to keep a closer eye on each cow. After all, we have over 500 of them!
When a cow has increased activity a signal is sent to the computer and we take a look at the cow. It is likely that she is in heat and ready to be bred. In order to keep our herd growing and to remain profitable it is important to breed the cows via artificial insemination in a timely fashion; the activity system helps us do this. If you have never seen an animal in heat, oh boy, you are missing out. Cows get pretty crazy; walking around, sniffing, bellowing and mounting other cows. They definitely show some increased activity. Here is a video of cows in heat that I found on YouTube. The cows are fairly calm and it isn’t the best representation of my description, but the video made me laugh. Click the link and check it out:
Our computer is also signaled when a cow has low activity. Low activity usually indicates that the cow is not feeling well, has a sore foot or some other abnormality. When we receive this signal, we head over to the cow’s pen and perform a visual examination. If the cow looks healthy and is either eating or chewing her cud, we leave her alone (She is probably just having a lazy day). However, if the cow does not look content or healthy we bring her to the hospital pen for a more thorough examination.
With 500+ cows and only so many sets of eyes, you can see why collars with pedometers are so helpful. We want to give our cows the best care possible and don’t want to miss a thing! The piece of technology allows us to keep a closer eye on our animals and be more efficient.