“IDA gives me a better grip on heifers”

Heat detection in heifers can sometimes be challenging. To get a better grip on this, Dutch dairy farmer Jan-Roelof Jalvingh started to use IDA on his farm. “I have a great need for information and my interests lie in breeding and technology. With IDA I get a pretty good picture on the young cows and I really like the interactive aspect of the system”.

We meet farmer Jalvingh in the stable with the youngstock. He is busy with looking at his phone, looking at what IDA has to say. Since the end of June this year, all cows at his farm, that he runs together with his wife in the town Ruinerwold in the Dutch province Drenthe, have been connected to IDA. The farmer received the IDA app at the beginning of July. Soon after the advices became visible on his phone. Now he can’t live without this digital assistant anymore.

Photos by Liesbeth Wenniger

Trust in the system

Jalvingh currently milks 54 cows. Including the young and the dry cows there are a total of 84 animals with a sensor. “If you do it, you must do it well and give all cows a sensor,” he says. Jalvingh is an active man and part of various study groups and committees. He knows what is going on in the dairy sector and food chain. “I have had the idea for a number of years to use some sort of technology on the farm. I have investigated various options and IDA appealed to me for several reasons. Firstly, the subscription, meaning I only pay per cow and do not have to purchase the hardware. In addition, the technology (artificial intelligence) appeals to me. IDA is a self-learning model that also requires a lot of feedback from the farmer. I like this. And in my network IDA already popped up several times. During my talks with the companies Hoogland and Bles Dairies for example. This gave me confidence that IDA works”, Jalvingh explains.

PROFILE

Name: Jan-Roelof Jalvingh (51 years old)
Dairy cows: 60
Youngstock: 45
Land: 28 hectares, of which 23 hectares of grassland and 5 hectares of corn
Business goal: Getting the youngstock pregnant sooner. Better grip on the number of young cattle compared to milking cows (age distribution of the total herd).

Quicker transition to lactating cow

Jalvingh wanted more control over heat detection, especially in the group of heifers. The Dutch farmer currently has quite a few number of heifers on the farm. Jalvingh: “Quite frankly, a bit too much in combination with the number of dairy cows. And as long as I can’t milk this group, they will only cost me money. And if it is up to the current Dutch agricultural Minister, young cattle older than 2 years old, that are not milked yet, will fall into a higher category when it comes to phosphate regulation. That means that I can keep fewer dairy cows”. According to Jalvingh, it is sometimes quite challenging to detect if a heifer shows in-heat behaviour, because the animals are often still active and jumpy. One moment you see jumping behaviour that can be seen as heat, the next moment you wonder which little animal it was again. “You usually look at the weight of the heifers as the best time to inseminate. In practice this meant that I started around 15 months of age and ended up at 15-18 months when the first insemination really took place. IDA has a much better eye on this. IDA gives me alerts that heifers are in heat at 12 months already. Then you are 3 months earlier with insemination and I can hence reduce the first calving age from 26 months to 22-23 months. This means that I can transfer the costly heifers to dairy cows much sooner. In addition, a reduction of 4 months in calving age gives room to another 9 kg of phosphate that can be used for cows. Now that the insemination has been done for most heifers, I am very curious if it has been successful”, the farmer says. 

“IDA can spot in-heat behaviour in young animals much better than I can. This means I can start the insemination process much sooner. Already at 12 months of age”

Better grip on animal health

After only a few months of using IDA, Jalvingh already has a better overview of his dairy herd and youngstock, he says. “I also discuss the use of IDA with my farm advisors to discuss how it can further assist me in optimising the farm. In addition, the use of new technology is also reflected in the study groups in which I participate. In addition, I am very active on social media and I like to share my experiences with IDA. Technology is key to optimise the farm, but working with cows remains the skills of a farmer as well. This is why I like IDA so much. I can give feedback on the advices and this way, the system becomes better and tailor made each time. In addition, I can always send a message via the IDA app if I have a question. That is a nice extra service”, says Jalvingh. Although the dairy farmer initially wanted to get a better grip on the heifers, he also sees a lot of value in the health reports IDA gives. “To detect health problems, I also chose to give all animals a sensor. Then you don’t miss anything. I have already received a number of reports from IDA and have been able to treat a few animals early before they came sick. In no time, these animals were eating again and I didn’t had to call the veterinarian”. 

A milking robot could be next 

It is nice to see that Jalvingh is interested in technology, but the company is not fully equipped with technical gadgets. He consciously chose to work with IDA first. “I am often off-site, in meetings or attending the study groups. I also take vacation. When I am away, IDA keeps me informed about my cows, “says Jalvingh. The information need of the dairy farmer is high and during the visit to his farm he constantly checks the IDA app. “Every farmer wants an easy cow that gives a lot of milk, quickly becomes pregnant and gives no further problems during her life. I think that still a lot can be improved in this area and using data for this is essential. For example, there is still a lot to be gained in optimising roughage intake and having a better insight into how much a cow eats per day”.  Jalvingh also sees many benefits of new technology in the field of genetics and breeding. All calves get a genomics test, so that he knows the breeding value of the animals. He does that by pulling out a hair and sending this over for testing. Breeding is a hobby for the farmer. What else is on the wish list? “A milking robot. This type of technology and equipment is something that really fits me as well”.