Changes in the diet? Ida keeps track!

During the Covid-19 lockdown, everything changed. Also for dairy farmers, the daily routine took a little twist here and there. Dutch farmer Jolanda Berghuis started to homeschool her kids and bought tonnes of left over potatoes to feed her cows. This is where she noticed the true value of Ida as her assistant. 

The 125-cow dairy farm of Jolanda and her husband Gerard Berghuis is located in the Eastern part of the Netherlands and switched from the SCR Heatime system to using Ida in November 2019. “It is all about simple and effective tools. There are systems on the market where you have to walk to the computer screen to really look at the data. You don’t want that. You are in the stable, with a cow next to you and you immediately want to see what is going on. Ida is very handy and user friendly because I can see everything on my phone”.

Starting with Ida: input from veterinarian

According to Berghuis, it took a few days to get used to the system and to learn which insights require immediate attention and which don’t. Giving feedback to the insights is something that Berghuis finds easy to do. “This is really something different than other systems and helps Ida to get better and learn from the farmer’s input. When I receive a health insights, Ida walks me through a diagnosis tool and I can fill in what we diagnosed her with”, Berghuis explains.

Just after the installation of Ida on her farm, Berghuis also cooperated with the veterinarian to learn how to interpret the health insights. “This was very valuable. He told me to temperature the cows first when Ida tells me that a cow has a potential health problem. If the temperature is elevated, I always contact the veterinarian straight after. In the case of a normal temperature, I first look at other potential problems and will monitor the cow closely for the consecutive days. This way of working suits me”, she explains.

Company profile:

Dairy cows: 125
Youngstock: 60
Ha land: 40
Milk production: 10,500 kg / cow / year
Total milk production per year: 1.3 million kg
Start date with Ida: November 2019.

Ask Ida: used in times of Corona

Berghuis is very content with the Ask Ida functionality to measure changes on the farm and their effect on cow behavior. The Dutch dairy farmers explains: “It is an easy and effective way to measure changes in the feed ration and then discuss the results with the feed advisor. Having Ida helps in keeping the conversation going with the nutritionists and discuss for example when a certain drop in rumination activity is something to worry about, or whether this can be easily explained by the feed change. Using Ask Ida keep both the farmer and the advisor focused and fuels the discussion on what we call normal cow behavior and what we see as deviant”.

The Ask Ida functionality was actively used when Berghuis decided to include potatoes in the feed. The potato farmers in the Netherlands could not sell their products because of the Covid-19 situation. All the restaurants and fast food shops that use the potatoes for making chips were temporally out of business. The result: tonnes of cheap potatoes entered the market and were used as a feed ingredient in the livestock sector. Berghuis: “I was able to buy them for 25 euros a tonne, a cheap alternative to corn. Many say potatoes are a great feed ingredient, but we never used them before. To make sure the cows react well to them, we use Ask Ida to monitor rumination behavior amongst others. And we did see that they responded well to the feed change”.

Photo: Voer- en adviesorganisatie GIJS

Early detection of pneumonia: cow saved

The ability to catch (potential) sick cows at an early stage also attracted Berghuis to choose for Ida. “And soon after we started with Ida we noticed the value here. Ida informed us that a couple of cows had a drop in eating activity. The thermometer showed a temperature of 39-40 degrees and it turned out to be a severe flu and a pneumonia. Because I could intervene quickly, both animals were back on their feet within a day. Ida alarmed me to check on these cows, and frankly, I did not see any abnormal behavior. Luckily Ida did. You could easily lose a cow on pneumonia and this cow is worth at least 2,000 Euro”.

“I am always up to date with the latest updates, because Ida uses the subscription model. I don’t need to invest in the hardware”

Using analytics for the older cows

Another example of the strong health prediction of Ida is what Berghuis experienced when using a Kexxstone bolus in a couple of older cows (6+ lactation). “We use the bolus to help them get through the transition period smoothly and to prevent lingering milk fever. Using the analytics feature in Ida we noticed that these two older cows showed a higher rumination activity than the rest of the (younger) cows. This gave me the confidence that the cows were doing great and the bolus really had an effect, reflected in the fact that these cows came into production very easily after calving”, Berghuis explains. Older cows are often high producers and farmers are often keen to increase longevity of the herd. “Having Ida on my side to make sure these older cows remain healthy and calving goes smoothly is of great help”, Berghuis addresses.

Photo: Voer- en adviesorganisatie GIJS

Effect of genetic selection

The dairy farm of Berghuis works with Semex, an international player in cattle genetics. Berghuis: “In our collaboration with Semex, Ida often comes in the conversations. I also see opportunities to use Ida to track animals from certain bulls we used for breeding. Look at Semex’s Immunity+ for example. Immunity+ sired animals have genetics which have been proven to provide robust immune systems capable of dealing with a large variety of potential immune challenges. What if we can use Ida as an extra proof to monitor in practice that the offspring is indeed robuster in terms of fewer health alerts for these animals?”

For Berghuis the switch to Ida is a no brainer. “I see the results and I simply wouldn’t want to farm without Ida anymore. With Ida we can keep the cows on their desired production level, monitor different groups and save on veterinary bills”, Jolanda explains. In the meantime, the schools in the Netherlands have re-opened and the restaurants are serving their burger with fries again. The Covid-19 storm might have settled down, but Ida is a keeper.