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New Brunswick dairy to test drive in-line milk sensor and software system

Progressive Dairyman Editor Karen Lee Published on 28 September 2018

Under Current Review: SomaDetect

Later this year, Top of the Morning Farm Ltd., in Holmesville, New Brunswick, will be one of the first farms to test-drive a new in-line milk testing device.

Farm owners Matthew and Karen Guest plan to install SomaDetect sensors in the milk lines attached to their three BouMatic milking robots. The Guests have agreed to ongoing interviews this year about their experience with the new technology.

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As the primary herd manager, Karen Guest will oversee how information from the device is incorporated into day-to-day activities on her family’s farm.

The Guests are the second generation on the farm, after taking over the operation from her parents and moving it to a new location 80 kilometers from the original farm.

They are milking 100 cows and raising four children, ages 13, 11, 9 and almost 1 year.

When they first heard about this new sensor at the Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick annual general meeting in 2016, the potential to have somatic cell counts, fat and protein information from every milking was very enticing.

“We thought it should be very useful for cow management,” Karen Guest says.

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They are currently using Valacta milk testing with monthly reports as well as sending in bulk tank samples every few weeks. From these tests, they are watching somatic cell counts, milk urea nitrogen, ketone bodies and milkfat.

The in-line sensor is capable of measuring fat, protein, somatic cell counts, progesterone and antibiotics from every cow at every milking.

Guest says she is looking forward to having the information available quickly to adjust management practices.

By having somatic cell counts on a daily basis, she is hoping to more quickly address milk quality issues, and the component information will help her see how cows are immediately adjusting to changes with feed or something in the barn.

The Guests are not strangers when it comes to adopting new technology in their farming practices. They have been using two milking robots since December 2015, and the third was installed at the beginning of this year. Even though there were some learning curves, Guest says it was a positive experience.

They also have an activity system to monitor the activity and rumination of each cow.

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Along with this new sensor system, the Guests are in the process of installing an automated calf feeder and automated feed pusher.

On their radar is improved milking robot performance technology and crop harvesting technology to gain a better idea of the quality of feed they are putting up. They are also considering automated feeding equipment.

When it comes to selecting a new technology for the farm, Guest says they consider how it will pay for itself and whether or not they need what the technology offers.

The technology’s impact on lifestyle and cow comfort are also important factors for them. A growing consideration is how the technology will address farming practices that concern the public.

Guest is anxious to see how the in-line sensor will affect her farm’s bottom line.

“If they continue the way they are talking, there is so much potential to this system. It will be a good system to help with managing the herd. I just hope they can make it affordable for everybody,” she says.  end mark

Karen Lee
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On a scale of 1 to 5, Progressive Dairyman found this dairy is interested in new technology for its business at the following level: Top of the Morning Farm Ltd. - 4.3.

“I am interested to see how this technology impacts the day-to-day management of this dairy. Will more immediate data change how the Guests manage their herd, and what will they do once they have that information? I am looking to forward to see how it impacts the farm’s milk quality and component values based on new management decisions from sensors’ daily data.” —Karen Lee, Progressive Dairyman editor

Top new technology categories of interest:

  1. Herd health
  2. Milking equipment
  3. Calf and heifer raising
  4. Cow comfort
  5. Feeding and nutrition

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